Five key ways and more to help solve the teacher shortage crisis

In my last blog, I talked about the dire teacher-shortage schools across the country are facing. How teachers are dropping out of the profession at record rates for a variety of reasons, and how the dwindling number of new teachers to hire has created an off-balance supply and demand scenario that is putting a tremendous strain on administrators, and reducing the quality of education for our students.

As a former teacher now working every day to help schools find qualified talent to fill their needs, I can tell you first-hand that this is indeed a critical time for our education systems. For the sake of our students, our schools and their administrators, we need to identify both short- and long-term solutions as soon as possible.

Thankfully, many schools districts, and states, across the country are developing innovative ways to address this shortage and lessen the negative impact on student achievement. For example, the governor of Kentucky recently signed a bill that helps military veterans become teachers. Veterans with a bachelor’s degree of any kind can receive a provisional certificate to teach if he or she has a major or passing assessment score in the area he or she wants to be certified. After completing a teaching apprenticeship, the veteran will receive a professional teaching certificate.

And in Springfield, Missouri, high school students can now “test drive” career options — including education professions — in a program that showcases area jobs, and the skills and training needed to prepare for them. In addition to exploring corporate careers, interested students can explore career paths for both K – 12 and higher education. They can also connect with area education professionals and engage in “real world” projects.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Toward a reskilling revolution

South Carolina schools employed more than 500 foreign exchange teachers in the 2016/2017 school year through a state-run program and by working with a few private agencies. And community leaders in Indianapolis, Indiana are going to great lengths to attract and retain teaching talent, including the design and construction of a “teachers’ village” of homes. These homes will be offered to educators at below-market prices, helping teachers establish strong roots in the community in which they work.

Strategies like these represent innovative ways to solve the local teacher shortage problems. What else can be done? A 2016 study by the Education Commission of the United States on mitigating teacher shortages found five core strategies that many states are using to address shortages:

  1. Alternative certification: Designed to boost recruitment, the goal is to provide a faster path to teaching, with robust preparation. Stipends appeal to professionals with backgrounds in hard-to-staff subjects, like science, who have already completed their higher education. There’s an extensive focus on in-classroom training, and as of 2014, 47 states had alternative certification programs. These programs account for 20% of new teachers who are entering the profession. Programs lead to a standard teaching certificate, or an alternative or provisional certificate; they also are designed to attract minority and male recruits who may choose urban or high-needs schools.
  2. Financial incentives: In the important area of salaries, states can set minimum pay, or use pay schedules based on experience and education. Diversified pay is another option; used in 23 states, it boosts pay for those who teach shortage subjects or in high-needs schools. Pay-for-performance can pay dividends. PFP programs are established in 16 states, and an additional nine states permit and/or encourage pay for performance. Many states provide alternative financial incentives, such as compensation for prior work experience, loan forgiveness, housing assistance, tuition reimbursements and scholarships.
  3. Induction and mentorship: While the terms “induction” and “mentoring” are sometimes used interchangeably, induction programs typically incorporate mentorship by an experienced teacher. “Comprehensive induction” involves a structured program of mentorship and development in which trained mentors provide constructive feedback to new teachers. Designed to lower attrition, 29 states require induction or mentoring for new teachers, and programs have shown results. Districts in Ohio and New York reduced attrition by more than two-thirds.
  4. Evaluation and feedback: Effective feedback boosts retention of high-performing teachers, leading them to remain in their current school for an average of two to six years longer than they otherwise might have. In 2015, 38 states required that teachers receive some degree of feedback following a classroom observation, and 31 states specifically required that the results be used to inform and shape professional development for all teachers. This is up from only 12 states in 2011.
  5. Teacher leadership: Opportunities include a formal mentorship program or informally mentoring colleagues. Professional development opportunities include teacher leaders serving as department chairs, schoolwide coaches for teachers and creating and presenting workshops.

While we can’t solve this crisis overnight, by working together and communicating what’s working and what isn’t, we may be able to thwart market forces and better enable qualified educators to be in front of every classroom. As a passionate advocate for the teaching professionals on the front lines who sees the value of Innovation, commitment and integrity every day, I know we’ll get through this if we work together.


Nicola Soares

Nicola Soares
Nicola (Nikki) Soares is vice president and managing director of Kelly Educational Staffing (KES®). She is responsible for managing operations and driving strategic growth for KES and for Teachers On Call, a Kelly Services company with operations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and for Substitutes Any Time, a Kelly Services company in Arizona.

Nicola Soares

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One Response to “Five key ways and more to help solve the teacher shortage crisis”

  1. Ed Rant says:

    The Education Commission claims “Teacher shortages can be addressed in two ways.” They are in error. Teachers are leaving for a variety of reasons; that is correct. Some of the reasons are: 1. Unreasonable students and non-supportive parents (and administrators that cave in to parents.) 2. Unreasonable – almost irrational – curriculum (24 people developed the Common Core Standards. How many have ever been in the classroom, 6 or 7? How many were elementary teachers, zero? How many were child psychologists, zero? And if your state does not use the CC Standards, they are like the same with a different title.) 3. Unreasonable expectations for teachers. (student goes home and immediately gets on the game console, yet teachers are to blame for the child’s low reading skills. 4. Low pay. (some states do NOT pay teachers a living wage.)

    Parents are the majority of the problem. When was the last time you were shopping and saw an extremely young child in the shopping cart with a cell phone playing a game? Reading is one of the most complex tasks the brain can perform. Parents will take their children to football practice, soccer practice, dance practice, but for some reason the child does not practice the very skill that impact the rest of their life. Combine this with the Common Core Standards raising the academic bar and it should be pretty clear why teachers are leaving.

    The solution to the teachers shortage will not be found with incentives. That will only be a short-term solution. Here are some ideas:

    1. Change the laws so all administrators at all levels – right up to and including the Feds – are appointed by teachers, not voters, not governors, not the president. Yes, require this of all state and federal DOE members and commissioners. This will create a vested interest between all administrators and teachers, a relationship that is vital to an effective education system. It will also remove the ill effect of the two words that parents use to get their way with their unreasonable children: “I Vote.”

    2. Change the standards to a level reasonable for a young person, especially at the elementary level. If we destroy the spirit of an elementary student, why should we expect better when they reach the secondary level? Did the 24 ever hear of Jean Piaget?

    If we makes these changes, the teacher shortage will change for the better.

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