Is the U.S. suffering from a teacher shortage? Or (more presciently) is a teacher shortage looming? Whether backward or forward-looking, the media and a litany of researchers (ourselves included) have pondered, studied and reported on this and related questions with increasing frequency.
The non-profit, non-partisan Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is the latest think-tank to examine the issue from a national lens, in a series of reports that appear to be a fairly comprehensive analysis of the situation. I won’t pretend to have combed through all of them, but my quick take is that they reach much the same conclusion as we did: there’s no easy solution because it’s a complicated and nuanced matter— as one would expect in a country of 50 states and more than 14,000 school districts.
Hence, the holes in the teacher pipeline are myriad and vary widely depending on state education policies, demographics, housing conditions, the overall job market and, of course, school funding. There are common themes, however: rural and high-poverty districts; science, math and special education; and high schools all struggle more than their counterparts to recruit and retain teachers.
Have we reached “crisis” level yet? Who knows and really, who cares? Certainly not the states and communities who are already struggling to find and keep qualified teachers— and are employing numerous and, often times, highly creative methods to address this. These methods often place teachers in classrooms before they are truly ready and qualified to teach.
Both LPI’s report and our own provide policies and programs that have been successful at attracting and retaining qualified teachers. And again, we reach the same conclusion: a multi-faceted approach that involves all the key players in the education landscape is the only way to ensure every school has access to qualified professionals who will be able to deliver the diverse and challenging curriculum that students need to succeed in the 21st century.
Sounds simple, but if coordination and communication were that easy then we wouldn’t be reading another report about a current/impending/distant crisis in education would we?