We have a public-school teacher vacancy
and turnover problem — more are leaving than coming in. In 2021,
turnover equated to a loss of over 152,000 teachers from their
positions in the SREB region. Yet we only prepared shy of 58,000
new teachers (traditional and alternative prep combined).
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know we’re
experiencing record worker shortages in certain careers.
SREB has analyzed data on the economy, labor markets and
education, and asked: In what ways is our economy tied to the
success of our schools and colleges? How can we improve our
economic future through education?
Across the SREB states, many leaders are realizing the need for
action on one of the biggest challenges in education: ensuring
every student has a well-prepared teacher in every class, every
year, no matter where they live.
I know personally how teachers can impact students’ lives. I
started my career as a science teacher in Fayette County,
Georgia, and I’m still humbled when former students tell me how I
helped them become who they are as adults and find satisfying
careers to pursue.
This spring, the National Education Association released its annual teacher pay analysis a bit earlier than usual. This data is widely used across the nation as the main source for average teacher salaries by state. The headline for 2021: Teacher salaries are going up by an average of 1.5% across the nation, and average spending per pupil is up 5%.
When students don’t have good
teachers, it can affect their cognitive growth — and over time
can result in measurable economic loss.
Teacher shortages, therefore, are the type of crisis that “can
put an entire society at risk,” said Nicole Smith, the chief
economist and research professor at the Georgetown University
Center on Education and the Workforce.
As state education budgets suffer during this pandemic, the teaching profession simply cannot absorb the kind of blow it took in the last recession. Teacher salaries dropped substantially then, and today, a decade later, they’re still lower on average than before the Great Recession. Morale has dropped, too, according to surveys, and turnover has risen as budgets and teacher supports decrease. We can’t afford to repeat the same mistakes in this current climate, another recession aggravated by COVID-19.
In April, my mom called me with the news that my high school
chemistry teacher, Mr. Metcalfe, who was rounding out his 42nd
year of teaching, had died from COVID-19. I knew him from class,
of course, but I also went to school with his son for 13
years and his family attended my grandparent’s church.
He was respected, loved and honored for his excellent teaching.
His funeral was an all-day parade of cars through the high school
parking lot, where community members waved and shouted
condolences to his family. My mom said the cars stretched down
the street for miles.
A major issue for my generation, the millennials, and for Gen Z as well is deep, suffocating student debt. For those who want to enter teaching, a career that is not compensated handsomely, this debt can be even more daunting.
Many teacher candidates work full- or part-time jobs in addition to attending classes. When they enter their student teaching period, whether for a semester or a year, these candidates are expected to give over their time fully to student teaching, which makes working nearly impossible.
Many states have a critical issue
with retaining early-career teachers, no matter their preparation
pathway. Oklahoma has one of the more severe teacher
57% of new teachers leaving the profession by their fifth
year, compared to
One of the top reasonsearly career teachers leaveislack of support. Better early career support
would help solve the costly problem of having to prepare and hire
a new teacher each time another leaves the profession.
The SREB Teacher Preparation Commission called on state leaders to adopt practice-based assessments. These tests assess candidates’ readiness to lead a classroom and to apply lessons learned during coursework and clinical experiences.
Practice-based assessments have diagnostic value, meaning they provide performance data that educator preparation programs can use to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. State agencies could use the assessment data to determine how they will provide technical assistance to preparation programs.
High-quality teacher evaluations are an important component of comprehensive systems to ensure that all students are being taught by effective teachers. From evaluations, districts and states can generate data that can positively impact teachers and students in numerous ways. This is why states have invested so much in them – since 2009, 37 states have updated their evaluation systems – and why they are so important to get right.
The research is clear: Students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are much more likely to face poor academic outcomes. For this reason alone, we know it is incredibly important that children learn to read well early in elementary school and continue to build on those reading skills throughout the rest of school.