Using Data to Address Teacher Shortages
Which measures can help states and districts attract and retain great teachers?


We have a teacher workforce problem in the South. We do not have enough teachers who want to keep teaching — or enough people who are choosing to become teachers in the first place. Furthermore, within our current teacher workforce, many teachers are not fully prepared for their roles. And these challenges are even more striking when examined by subject area and school poverty level. 

Not only do these trends harm student learning and make teachers’ jobs harder, they also cause economic disadvantages. But effectively addressing and preventing teacher shortages requires going beyond a “warm body” approach  — this means that focusing solely on filling vacancies is a surface-level, bandaid approach. To ensure efforts to address teacher shortages are effective and long-lasting, states and districts need to look at various measurements and take a holistic approach to making teaching an attractive, rewarding, and sustainable career choice.

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TRENDS: Nearly 18% decline in teacher preparation program enrollment in the South between 2012-13 and 2020-21 + interest in teaching among current high school students in the South is down to average of 4%

WHY IT MATTERS: Over the last decade, the number of people completing teacher prep programs in the South has declined significantly. The 2020-21 school year marked the first time since 2012 in which there was a year-to-year increase. However, the number of people choosing to enroll in teacher preparation programs – and furthermore, complete those programs and enter the profession is still a cause for concern. Interest in entering teaching is at an all time low among Gen Z compared to previous generations – a trend that even more concerning when combined with other trends across the region such as increased vacancies, increased turnover, and an aging workforce.

EXAMPLES OF DATA TO EXPLORE: projected need (student population, turnover, retirement), interest in becoming a teacher, prep program enrollment, prep program completion, traditional vs alt programs






TRENDS: 1 in 3 teachers in the south is inexperienced or not fully prepared. Between 2019-20 and 2020-21: inexperienced grew 1.2%; out-of-field stayed the same; uncertified increase 0.6% (in 2020-21: 17.6 inexperienced (3 years or less); 5.1% uncert or emergency; 11% teaching out of field) ……. teacher workforce is growing more diverse (2020-21: 24% teachers of color – compared to 22% year prior), but still doesn’t reflect student population (24% compared to 59% of students being people of color)

WHY IT MATTERS: In efforts to fill vacancies, sometimes see states or districts reduce or waive requirements, etc. Creates new challenge – students taught by inexperienced or not fully prepared teachers. About more than just a warm body, matters who (preparation, skill) is teaching students. + research about how students of color can benefit from having a teacher of color

EXAMPLES OF DATA TO EXPLORE: inexperienced, out-of-field, uncertified, years of experience, NBCT, race/ethnicity data for students/teachers

RECOMMENDED ACTION STEP: collect more multi-measurement points on quality to know more. blueprint – points on supports, growth, retention to increase quality of teachers and retain them/provide routes into teacher leadership

OTHER LINKS/RELATED CONTENT: vandy report on teacher quality how covid impacted quality and distribution




TRENDS: see gaps by location, poverty level, and subject area/grade-level. in the south, a student attending a high-poverty school is 1.6x more likely to have an inexperienced, out-of-field or uncertified teacher than their peer at a more affluent school + map showing how many of the 7 shortage areas each state has + slide showing urban/rural

WHY IT MATTERS: just looking at state or district data overall may not reveal shortages. need to distill/cut data by school poverty level etc to get full picture. means some students more impacted than others and for example stem shortages problematic with future workforce needs

EXAMPLES OF DATA TO EXPLORE: content area shortage areas – by grade level, location, etc. teacher experience and proxies for quality by content area, school poverty level. retention by school poverty level (less continuity)

RECOMMENDED ACTION STEP: consistently collect data across all schools and districts; incentivize teachers and pre-service teachers to fill vacancies in geographies/subjects of need

OTHER LINKS/RELATED CONTENT: vandy report on distribution of talent in wake of covid




TRENDS: vacancies up. turnover up. high turnover early on, meaning teachers leave before they gain experience. aging workforce – higher retirement count, record lows of teacher satisfaction and record highs of teachers wanting to leave

WHY IT MATTERS: benefits of continuity, cost

EXAMPLES OF DATA TO EXPLORE: turnover rates (broken down by location, subject matter, experience level, poverty, etc), mobility, cost to replace, teacher satisfaction, working conditions, interest in leaving profession

RECOMMENDED ACTION STEP: working conditions needed to improve retention

top reasons cited by gen z as to why teaching is unattractive: low pay, lack of career advancement, lack of flexibility and collaboration, lack of voice and respect. quote?

between unfilled vacancies and morale/absenteeism, teachers being asked to cover places; increases staff stress and impacts student learning

current teachers note lack of autonomy, declining mental health/wellbeing/morale

next to pay raises or bonuses, smaller class sizes and more/better support for student wellbeing were steps teachers said were most likely to improve wellbeing.

OTHER LINKS/RELATED CONTENT: blueprint, teacher comp dashboard, other op-eds