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Tackling Teacher Shortages: What Can States and Districts Do?

Tara Kini

Learning Policy Institute

January 11, 2022

This is the first of three blogs exploring the state of teacher shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic and evidence-based solutions for addressing immediate need and building a strong and diverse teaching workforce. This post is part of the blog series, Solving Teacher Shortages.

The current staffing crisis in public schools is taking center stage in communities throughout the country. A national survey from Education Week in October shows that schools struggled this fall to fill a variety of critical positions—from classroom teachers and substitutes to bus drivers—reflecting the multiple associated stresses of COVID-19 on our school systems and the people who staff them. Another survey in November found that nearly half—48%—of teachers said they had considered changing jobs in the past month, up from 32% in June.

The omicron-fueled surge is stretching schools to the breaking point, with districts around the country having to close, delay reopening after the holidays, or shift to distance learning as teachers and other staff are absent due to illness, quarantine requirements, or the need to care for sick family members. Schools are desperately trying to cover classrooms, with even superintendents stepping in to fill vacancies. Any unfilled position has the potential to undermine students’ opportunity to learn, but the difficulty many schools and districts are having hiring and retaining teachers is a particular cause for concern. Now more than ever, students need academic and social-emotional support and stability, and prepared and supported teachers are essential to meeting this need.

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