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Teaching Shortages Across America

There’s a national teacher shortage in K-12 schools, and Advancement Courses has created an infographic to help you find where you’re needed most. Use our interactive graphic above to explore areas of shortage. Filter by grade and subject to find where you can make the most impact as an educator, and hover over states to see statistics on average salaries and the cost of living.

What was once a growing problem has now become a nationwide crisis. In 1990, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) reported that the majority of states across the nation had just a few subject areas where teacher shortages were reported. Twenty-eight years later, minor scarcities have developed into entire areas of shortage.

It’s possible you’re feeling the impact in your community. According to the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), 48 states and the District of Colombia reported teacher shortages in special education during the 2015-2016 school year. In the same academic year, 42 states plus D.C. reported shortages in mathematics and 40 states plus D.C. reported shortages in science.

In recent years, cuts to education funding and teacher salaries or pensions have negatively impacted the profession. Budget cuts have led to low morale within schools and contributed to an eight percent attrition rate, per the LPI. In 2018, teacher protests broke out in Oklahoma, which leads the nation with a 28.2 percent drop in state general funding per student since the economic recession in 2008. Kentucky, ranked third on the list with a 15.8 percent decline in funding per student, also experienced several protests. As of 2016, the state of Kentucky had more than $33 billion in unfunded pension liabilities across its pension system.

Variations in Shortages

While teacher shortages affect the nation as a whole, they’re often felt more sharply in low-socioeconomic areas. It can be difficult for poorer districts to hold onto teachers due to low pay, and at times, a lack of community support. These factors contribute to low teacher morale and high turnover, and the districts then respond in multiple ways.

The LPI found on average nationally, “high-minority schools had four times as many uncertified teachers as low-minority schools.” Uncertified teachers are those who don’t have a standard teacher’s license, though they may have either emergency certification or an alternate certification. Even in wealthier states, such as New York and California, teacher shortages are still being felt. In the Golden Plains Unified school district, located in the heart of central California’s almond, raisin and cotton farm country, 14 of the district’s 84 teachers had either intern credentials or permits. These credentials are short of a full teacher’s license but are necessary to fill the vacancies.

Many states, including Minnesota, Arizona, Illinois and Utah, recently lowered requirements for people without an education degree to become educators. Specifically in Illinois, the state legislature passed a law easing restrictions on out-of-state, retired or substitute teachers being certified.

Even when standards are lowered, and emergency certifications are provided, it can be tough for rural or low-income schools to hold on to their teachers. The principal of Tranquility Elementary School (in Golden Plains Unified) said in an interview that in rural districts like his, it can be difficult to keep teachers from being poached away by school districts in higher-income areas. He said that two of his recent hires left before the first day of school because of better offers at the last minute from other districts. In addition, two veteran teachers announced they were leaving at the end of the school year for teaching positions closer to where they live, by the urban population centers.

To deal with these issues, many schools have been forced to use long-term substitutes or look to new technology to cut costs and educate their students. McDowell County Schools, located in rural West Virginia, was unable to find replacements for foreign language teachers, so students had to take foreign language courses online. In 2017, the rural Trimble CountySchool District in Kentucky implemented “Summit Learning,” a program developed in part by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that moves student learning from the classroom to an Internet-connected computer.

Combatting Shortages

Teacher shortages are growing, but the good news is there are ways for teachers, school districts and state governments to help solve the issues. The LPI has recommended four solutions for ending the teacher shortage.

  1. Create a competitive, equitable salary package that allows teachers to live in the communities where they teach and offer higher wages and benefits for those working with high-risk or high-poverty students.
  2. Grow the supply of qualified teachers for high-need fields, such as special education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
  3. Improve teacher retention and create a better working environment.
  4. Develop a national teacher supply market that would aid schools looking for qualified candidates.

Teacher protests in both West Virginia and Oklahoma in 2018 convinced the state governments to raise teacher salaries. In West Virginia, teachers received a five percent bump, and in Oklahoma, teachers received raises as well as $51 million in additional funding to education across the state.

In 2016, the U.S.Department of Education awarded 13 grants totaling more than $70 million as part of the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), now rebranded as the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program. The grants provide funding for projects in schools and provide school districts with additional funds to pay teachers in high-poverty districts. Other non-profits are rolling out grants to schools to improve teacher retention, and there is a growing movement on increasing local funding for teacher retention programs.

Depending on the state, teachers who earn a master’s degrees and National-Board certifications can increase their salaries.

How You Can Be Part of the Solution

You, too, can be part of the solution, and Advancement Courses can help. The core ideas to solving the shortage crisis include improving teacher morale, growing the supply of STEM teachers, improving teacher retention and growing teachers beyond the classroom. That’s where we come in.

Invest in yourself with our online educational professional development programs and refine your teaching abilities. We offer courses that can be taken for college credit or professional development. These programs – developed by teachers for teachers – are designed to be meaningful, engaging and classroom-applicable.

Teacher Morale

Teacher morale is one of the biggest impediments to the job’s potential growth, but there are ways for you to overcome challenges you face in the classroom. Enroll today in Beyond Survival Mode: Maintaining Your Passion Throughout Your Teaching Career and From Burnout to Productivity: Creating a Path for Teacher Wellness. These courses help teachers avoid burnout and deliver crucial strategies at keeping a high morale in the classroom.

One of the best ways to avoid teacher burnout is working with teachers, whether in a PLC or another collaborative group. Co-Teaching Strategies provides teachers with enormous benefits and best practices that enables teachers to succeed in a stress-free experience. Regardless of what course you take from Advancement Courses, you’ll have access to our community space while enrolled. Our community space allows teachers to interact with course instructors and their peers to share resources, explore new ideas and connect with other educators from across the country.

High-Need Fields

Employees in STEM fields earn more than in many other fields, according to the Department of Education, and with the DOE projecting a 14 percent increase in STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Design and Mathematics) jobs by 2020, it’s more important than ever that we have talented teachers in these subjects. If you work in the arts and want to have an impact on your students in future STEAM jobs, enroll today in Supporting Student Success in STEM using Blended Learning and The A in STEAM stands for Art. You’ll learn key factors to make STEM and STEAM education more engaging to students while developing strategies on integrating the arts in science and technology study.

High-Need Areas

It can be hard for schools in high-poverty or rural areas to retain teachers. Advancement courses provides professional development and college credit that can help you combat the challenges you may face working in those areas, including Empowering Students through Educational Equity and Teaching Writing to English Language Learners. The skills you learn from these courses help you develop an equitable classroom.

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Beyond the Classroom

Teachers give students the knowledge they need to succeed long after graduation, and the connections made between teachers and students – as well as their families – can last a lifetime. A great school district has a supportive community behind it, and you can learn how to foster that relationship by enrolling in our Building Meaningful Partnerships: Connecting Schools, Families, and Communities course.

There’s never been a better time to expand and refine your teaching skills. In our extensive catalog of courses, you’ll find a diverse range of subjects based on trends in education and teacher feedback. We have proven track records of supporting teachers across content areas and grade levels, offer courses that can be taken anytime and provide tangible products that can be immediately used in your own classroom.

Featured Course

Building Meaningful Partnerships: Connecting Schools, Families, and Communities

In this course, you will gain concrete, actionable strategies for partnering with families and community organizations to foster meaningful educational experiences for students.

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