The growing teacher shortage is a barrier to quality education, especially for children from low-income households, and is the biggest risk factor for the US education system.
“The teacher shortage is real and has serious consequences,” reads the introduction of a new Economic Policy Institute report, developed by researchers Emma García and Elaine Weiss. The first in a series of reports, it focuses on why the profession attracts so few people and why so many decide to leave it after a few years’ practice, as well as the long and mid-term implications of this trend on society.
The shortage of teachers is all too real
The report finds that the teacher shortage is a reality and a trend that can be expected to get worse. Figures are even more alarming if indicators of teacher quality (certification, relevant training and experience) are taken into account. The schools that suffer the most from the shortage of trained teachers are those in poorer areas.
Teacher turnover takes its toll on “students, teachers and the public education system as a whole,” according to García and Weiss. The ability of students to learn is compromised, and teachers’ effectiveness is reduced. Moreover, the fact that the shortage is unevenly distributed among different socioeconomic backgrounds poses a challenge to the provision of quality education to all children – one of the goals of the US education system.
Improve working conditions
The researchers conclude that tackling the working conditions and other factors that are causing teachers to leave the profession or dissuading students from entering it is one key element to solving this problem. Low pay, a challenging school environment and weak professional development support and recognition all contribute to making the profession unattractive. Funding and support are key solutions, especially when it comes to low-income schools. Along the same lines, Education International's recent report on teacher identity pointed out the lack of high quality professional learning and development as teachers' biggest concern. On the other hand, the Global Status of Teachers report (also by EI) reflected the global extent of the shortage.