Posted by Barnett Berry on Monday, 05/01/2017
For the next two months, teachers of the CTQ Collaboratory will examine the issue of teacher shortages, including recruitment, retention, and ongoing teacher development. Building from the Learning Policy Institute's (LPI's) compelling policy research and their own experiences, these classroom experts will propose innovative solutions to our nation’s long-standing problem of ensuring quality teaching and learning for every student.
Students of color, and those attending schools in low-income communities, are still more likely to be taught by underprepared teachers, who leave the profession at more than twice the rate of their well-qualified, fully certified peers. As LPI recently reported, teacher turnover is about 55 percent higher in high-poverty schools (i.e., Title I). The revolving door of novice teachers comes at a significant cost—both for school districts that must constantly replace them and for students who lose ground academically. We know from decades of research that long-term school improvement hinges on a stable, well-prepared teaching faculty and the administrators who support them.
At a recent meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), researchers presented additional data on the root causes of the problem. One LPI report pointed to how poor salaries, as well as a variety of teaching conditions, lead to high teacher turnover—including the stark differences found in states like Arizona and Oregon.
When I think back on the research on teacher shortages and teaching quality—assembled over 20 years ago—there is no doubt we have a clearer picture of the problem today. But the data hasn’t changed much. And many of today’s “innovative” and evidence-based initiatives to address teacher shortages—such as high quality training, mentoring, and principals who support teachers as leaders—are not at all new.
We have known for some time what to do.
This is the thesis of the article I penned with my LPI colleague, Patrick Shields, in this month’s issue of Kappan magazine.
In “Solving the teacher shortage: Revisiting the lessons we’ve learned,” Patrick and I help readers understand how and why the teaching profession has come to this point by taking a closer look at two states, California and North Carolina. Both launched significant efforts, beginning in the late 1990s, in large part because of the leadership of Linda Darling-Hammond (founder of LPI), who led the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF). Both states began the process of building the kind of coherent systems for teacher development found in top-performing nations, but now are confronted again by looming teacher shortages, especially in high-need schools.
While California and North Carolina differ in size, population, and many other ways, their policy strategies had much in common: Both states raised minimum salaries for teachers, invested in pre-service preparation (notably providing more clinical training), and offered scholarships and forgivable loans as ways to recruit teachers for hard-to-staff positions and locations. Both states created mentoring systems for new hires, and incentives and supports for veterans to pursue advanced certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
Unfortunately, as explored in-depth in the article, both states gradually dismantled these policies, programs, and services in response to economic exigencies that undermined funding (California) and political resistance to investing in teachers (North Carolina).
As Patrick and I conclude, the challenge is not just to design and implement programs to strengthen the teaching profession—the real challenge is to sustain such supports over time. This is not a technical problem so much as a political one. The future of teaching—and truly addressing teacher shortages—hinges on effective advocacy.
The future of teaching—and truly addressing teacher shortages—hinges on effective advocacy.
In this spirit, I am pleased that teachers of the CTQ Collaboratory will be working with policy and research experts of LPI to spread both sound evidence and perspectives directly from the classroom in ways that can more deeply engage parents, the general public, and political leaders. More and more teachers are organizing and mobilizing, using social media to fuel the spread of their accomplishments with students, and leveraging policies that will help them teach even more effectively.
To kick us off, roundtable lead and early childhood educator John Holland, an NBCT based in Richmond, Virginia, will launch the series next Monday in conjunction with Teacher Appreciation Week.
We invite you to join the conversation.