The national teacher shortage has been a hot topic of discussion and controversy since the pandemic in 2020. However, a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute noted that the national teacher shortage precedes the effects of COVID-19 and has grown due to the lack of qualified teachers, low pay, and increase in stressful environments in-and-out of the classroom. As the shortages have worsened, the crisis has evolved from an internal issue within education into a political conversation about how the government should react, what policies should be implemented, and even what changes need to be enacted to train the next wave of educators.
To help you better grasp this whirlwind of a situation, we have a small rundown of the basic facts and questions about the national teacher shortage and what ACU Online is doing to increase training and decrease turnover in the state of Texas.
The What: What is the national teacher shortage?
The teacher shortage has been a national issue since 2015, when research began indicating a teacher to student ratio imbalance. Since then, numerous experts and institutes have raised alarms about the potential increase of teacher shortages. In a report conducted in 2016, the Learning Policy Institute estimated a growth from 64,000 vacancies in 2015 to 300,000 vacancies by 2020, with an increase to 316,000 by 2025. Fast forward to 2020 and beyond, these numbers have increased to over one million open positions across the country.
The Why: Why is the shortage occurring?
There are multiple factors worsening the shortage, including teachers feeling disrespected, silenced, and unsupported. However, the four most common determinants for the shortage are a decline in teacher preparation enrollments, a failure to return to pre-covid student-to-teacher ratios, an increase in student enrollment, and an increase in teacher attrition.
Filling these needed positions is growing increasingly harder, because there has been a 19% decrease over the last 20 years in students graduating with college degrees in education. This dwindling graduation rate is causing a blocked pipeline amongst educators who do not fit these qualifications. As universities struggle to produce graduated education majors, the influx of student-to-teacher ratio continues to grow exponentially. With over 49.5 million K-12 students enrolled nationwide, the Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education estimates the shortage will persist unless school districts, government agencies, and universities work together to make changes at the state and national levels in order to train college students and paraprofessionals to become qualified teachers.
The Where: Where is the shortage affecting the most?
The teacher shortage is nationwide, but it’s not affecting all states the same way. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, states like Florida, Illinois, and Arizona have the highest number of public school teacher vacancies largely composed of low-income, non-native English speakers. Take Texas for example. Over 370,000 classroom teachers were hired in the 2021-22 school year serving in cities like San Antonio, Uvalde, Houston, and El Paso, areas with low-income households and a large percentage of children of color. By the end of the 2021-2022 academic year, 44,400 left the profession entirely.
The Who: Who is responsible for the shortage?
The pandemic piled on enormous strains to this growing problem, and many are left wondering who should carry the responsibility. While some blame political parties and their efforts to pass legislative bills contrary to parental and state preferences, other experts are looking into previous situations that merely enhanced the problem over time. These situations include the massive layoffs during the recession of 2008-2012, the pandemic and lack of instructional direction, and political, cultural agendas carried into schools by parents, administrators, and gubernatorial officials. Clearly, the source of the teacher shortage (and who is responsible) is complex, but the situation remains the same no matter who started it.
The How: How is ACU responding to the shortage?
In light of this crisis, some institutions have stepped up to do their part to help fill the gap in the next generation of educators. To combat the shortage, ACU Online is dedicated to adequately training and building K-12 educators and administrators. One of the best examples of this commitment is our partnership with the Education Service Center Region 13 in Central Texas.
Through this distinctive initiative, ACU has developed intuitive and comprehensive degrees and pathways for high school students, instructors, paraprofessionals, senior staff members, school administrators, and district leaders. With the Classroom to Career Teaching Track, ACU partners with school districts to recruit high school students who are interested in teaching. These students then receive specialized collegiate courses woven into their high school classes. As a result, these students graduate high school with an associate’s degree and are fast-tracked to earn a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Studies and their teacher certificate. Our New Teacher Pathway program enables paraprofessionals to obtain their Master of Education in Instruction & Learning and their teacher certification at the same time! And our Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program is ranked by Fortune as one of the best Ed.D. programs in the nation, perfect for training and building proficient district administrators.
Through innovative partnerships like these, ACU Online is proud to be an advocate and defender of educators across the country.
Interested in learning more about how you can answer the call and become a teacher during this national crisis? Visit our website and talk with one of our advisors today!