Report: Teacher Shortage Crisis Can Be Averted by Keeping Educators in the Profession

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The United States is facing a major teacher shortage, as schools are scrambling to fill positions in math, science, special education, bilingual education, and other fields. The most severe deficit can be found in nearly all – 90 percent – of our highest-need schools.

According to new research, attrition is fueling the teacher shortage crisis.

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) recently released a package of reports that that provide the most comprehensive look to date at the causes and consequences of teacher shortages and offer evidence-based policy recommendations to develop a strong and stable teaching workforce.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the school-going population will increase by roughly three million students in the next decade. But while the number of students is growing, enrollment in teacher preparation programs is down significantly – falling 35 percent nationwide in the last five years.

The shortage, says Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of LPI and co-author of A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand and Shortages in the U.S., is only going to get worse unless steps are taken now to address why so many are leaving the profession.

“The teaching profession continues to be a leaky bucket, losing more than 200,000 teachers each year,” Darling-Hammond explains. “And the gross numbers mask what already has become a critical shortfall in qualified teachers assigned to low-income and high-minority schools.”

Teaching Conditions At a Low Point

The attrition rates driving the teacher shortage crisis cannot be explained by retirements. The lion’s share leave because of dissatisfaction, LPI researchers found.

It comes as no surprise that many teachers are dissatisfied with their profession. Teacher salaries have been declining since the 1990s, and in thirty states around the country, a teacher who has a family of four is eligible for government assistance, including free or reduced-price lunch for their own children in school.

“Teaching conditions have hit a low point in the United States in terms of salaries, working conditions and access to strong preparation and mentoring — all of which would attract and keep a stronger, more sustainable teaching pool,” noted Darling-Hammond.

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