A new report from the Learning Policy Institute cites that about 90 percent of teacher vacancies are due to teachers leaving the profession, and posits that a national teacher shortage could be alleviated by improving retention. Further, by retaining experienced teachers, school districts could also boost student learning and reduce costs.
There is a critical need for teachers in California. A 2016 survey from CSBA and LPI found that the state’s teacher shortage had reached alarming levels, with 75 percent of surveyed districts indicating there are too few qualified teachers to fill their teaching vacancies. And most districts said the shortages were getting worse.
The recent LPI report “Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It” looked at the reasons behind the high turnover, drawing from National Center for Education Statistics surveys, and made recommendations based on the findings.
Although some teachers leave due to retirement, two out of three quit due to job dissatisfaction, the report found. Survey results also showed that teachers who did not have administrative support were most likely to leave. Academically, teachers said pressure from standardized testing goals and accountability added to professional dissatisfaction. Math, science, foreign languages, English language development and special education had the highest level of teacher shortages.
The high turnover rate is also affecting learning, particularly for low-income schools. The LPI study found that more than 100,000 classrooms have instructors who are not fully certified. As school districts scramble to replace departing teachers, new candidates have less training and experience. This in turn lowers student achievement, especially in Title I schools and for minority student groups. The research shows that turnover rates are 50 percent higher at low-income schools, and 70 percent higher for teachers in schools primarily serving students of color.
Economically, such turnover also creates costs. The study estimates that replacing a teacher can cost as much as $20,000 in an urban district.
Actions to Take
With these issues in mind, report authors Desiree Carver-Thomas and Linda Darling-Hammond developed recommendations for education leaders, policy makers and districts. These recommendations include:
- improvement of compensation
- scholarships and loan forgiveness
- strong support programs for new teachers, such as teacher residencies
- “grow your own” efforts that tap into members of the community
- high-quality collaborative mentoring for new teachers
More Teacher Shortage Resources
- Teacher Turnover: Why it Matters and What We Can Do About It — Learning Policy Institute
- Storm Brewing, How Schools Are Dealing With the Teacher Shortage — California Schools Magazine
- California Teacher Shortage Legislative Brief — Learning Policy Institute and California School Boards Association
- Teacher Shortages Ahead, Survey Finds — California School News