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Understanding Teacher Shortage: 7 Ways Administrators Can Address Staff Retention and Recruiting

Understanding Teacher Shortage: 7 Ways Administrators Can Address Staff Retention and Recruiting

Contrary to some headlines, teacher shortage is not a sweeping national problem. But, it is a complicated, nuanced issue that is very much a challenge in certain regions, various schools and districts, and specific subjects all around the country. There is no single root to the problem; instead, it’s the culmination of many contributing factors.

According to this report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), teacher attrition rates are high (estimated to be nearly 8 percent annually), while teacher preparation program enrollments have fallen by 35 percent over the past five years. Another LPI report finds that 90 percent of open teaching positions are created by teachers who leave the profession. At the same time, student enrollment is increasing, standards are becoming more rigorous, and the push for smaller class sizes is growing stronger.

A tricky problem like this does not come with an easy solution, and for administrators grappling with teacher shortage, it certainly won’t go away overnight. However, there are steps school and district administrators can take to address the issue, lessen its impact on students, and lay a foundation for an improved staffing situation in the future.

To increase retention among your current staff:

1. Make mentorship a priority

Teacher attrition is a significant part of the teacher shortage issue. And, a sizeable portion of teachers who leave the field do so in the early years of their career. Mentorship has been shown to be a key strategy to help new teachers be successful and, ultimately, stay in the classroom. Make sure that you are offering your new hires frequent opportunities to connect with one or more senior colleagues; observe effective, tenured coworkers in the classroom; have access to high-quality training; and receive regular, constructive feedback. Check out this post for tips on becoming a stronger mentor.

2. Create a positive and productive school environment

There is no way around it—teaching is a tough job. The challenges of meeting student needs are inherent to the job, but challenges around school working conditions can be addressed, and doing so can be a game changer when it comes to retaining teachers. Regularly request feedback from teachers to find out what resources they need in the classroom, minimize their administrative load, and help them understand pathways to their own career growth and development. Check out this post for tips to help improve school culture.

3. Elevate your teachers’ voices

All candidates who go into teaching does so because they’re passionate about making a difference in students’ lives. So, let them share their big ideas! Empower your teachers to be leaders and innovators in your school through regular opportunities to collaborate and provide the support needed to bring their inspirations to life. Experiencing that kind of agency makes a huge difference in keeping teachers in the classroom. Check out this blogs for ways to boost teacher well-being around your school.

Before you start the recruiting process:

4. Lobby your state policymakers

As mentioned previously, teacher shortages tend to be a very localized issue, and there are clear connections between state policies and significant staffing challenges. Take it upon yourself to get involved, and lobby your representatives to adopt teacher licensure policies that support transfer of credentials from other states and align with workforce needs.

5. Develop incentive programs

If you have the extra budget, start thinking outside the box to recruit new hires for your hard-to-fill teaching positions. Consider strategies like offering loan repayment, signing bonuses, or even housing assistance.

6. Get social

Good PR can go a long way in helping administrators get high-quality teachers into open roles. Social media provide great, cost-free tools to help build a positive rhetoric around your school or district. Share the outstanding things your students are accomplishing, talk about the broad spectrum of benefits your staff members enjoy, and promote open positions. Getting your school’s or district’s name out there on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will build critical awareness and help you stay in control of public perception.

7. Consider partnering with a virtual school

Administrators face ongoing curveballs when it comes to staffing. Virtual school partnerships can be a great solution to quickly respond when challenges arise. These partnerships can be practical, convenient, and cost-effective solutions to help you avoid reworking multiple staff members’ schedules when a teacher retires, seamlessly fill the gap when a teacher goes out on maternity or paternity leave, or offer that unique elective to the handful of students begging for the opportunity. Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy is a fully accredited virtual school that provides over 400 state-standards aligned courses paired with high-quality teachers certified in your state to enable schools to expand their course offerings, retain student enrollment, and quickly fill staffing needs as they arise.

For more tips on increasing retention, check out our virtual event where Edmentum welcomed Dr. Mark Benigni, superintendent of Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut; Kelly Coash-Johnson, executive director of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA); and Dr. Alena Zachery-Ross, superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools in Michigan, for a virtual roundtable discussion on teacher recruitment and retention—the first virtual event in our “Perspectives” series. Watch it here

Interested in finding out more about partnering with EdOptions Academy to overcome teacher shortages in your school or district? Watch this on-demand webinar!

This post was originally pulished July 2018 by Sarah Cornelius and has been updated.