While states approach many issues differently, one being handled with great care, innovation and urgency throughout the country is the shortage of K-12 educators.
During the Education Commission of the States’ Aug. 10 webinar “Partnering For Success: Addressing Shortages Across the Teacher Pipeline,” Nevada’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert and Indiana’s Secretary of Education Katie Jenner, both former teachers, shared what their states are doing to address the situation in a conversation moderated by former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Nevada has long focused on recruitment efforts both in the U.S. and internationally, Ebert shared.
Focusing on retention is a priority.
Many teachers are retiring following lengthy careers, but some early-career educators are opting to change professions. Removing barriers to reentry is one strategy being used. Individuals who want to try their hand at something new but may want to come back to the classroom should be told they’re welcome to, according to Ebert.
“Learning from industry we know that our children, our students, are not apt to, when they graduate, stay in a job for 30 years,” Ebert said. “And so, building out an education system that allows them to come into the profession and if they move on for a while, they gain experiences and talents and passion that they want to bring back, we need to make sure we create a pathway for everyone to become an educator as we move forward.”
School districts are also focusing on messaging about how barriers for licensure and entry into the profession have been “broken down” at the state level.
In Nevada, programs to help existing staff like paraprofessionals pursue their dreams of becoming a teacher are in place.
Millions of dollars have been poured into incentivizing teaching pathways by paying preservice educators while they work in a classroom.
A Grow Your Own program, starting in high school, is another way young, diverse candidates are being introduced to the field.
Increased compensation is another way to attract and retain employees.
Though Indiana isn’t experiencing “a mass exodus” of K-12 educators, there is a “downward trend of teachers entering the profession,” according to Jenner.
“Having a quality teacher in the classroom is the greatest foundational asset that we always must start with,” Jenner noted.
Education leaders in the state are also working to recruit high school students and help those in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), enter the classroom to teach. STEM teachers are in large demand in many places across the country.
Indiana has a STEM teacher recruitment fund, a teacher residency grant pilot program for those who need to make money while pursuing an education degree and scholarships to attract diverse professionals.
In conversations with teachers, Jenner said some express the desire to just be able to teach and have the bureaucracy removed.
Some school districts are using COVID relief funds to address teacher burnout, Jenner said. Professional development opportunities are also often exciting for and valued by teachers, according to Jenner.
The state is also running a public awareness campaign titled “Teachers Who Shaped Us,” which includes interviews with notable individuals describing the impact of teachers on their lives to encourage participation in the education field.
The Education Commission of the States offered its most recent policy guide on the topic, State Policy Levers to Address Teacher Shortages, and the Center on Great Teachers & Leaders’ Educator Shortages in Special Education: Toolkit for Developing Local Strategies as resources.