A new report by EPI Economist Emma García and Research Associate Elaine Weiss details policy solutions to address the persistent teacher shortage in U.S. public schools, which has likely been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. This is the sixth and final report in the “Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market” series.
EPI’s policy agenda to address the shortage of teachers in public schools plots a course to return teaching to a profession in which teachers are compensated on par with their college-educated peers, operate in environments in which they can teach effectively, receive the training they need early in their careers and the professional development they need throughout their work lives, see their professional judgement respected, and have the opportunity to use the expertise they attain to help shape critical aspects of their job.
The authors outline a set of four foundational recommendations for understanding and fixing the problem:
- Acknowledge that the teacher shortage is caused by multiple factors and thus can only be tackled with a comprehensive set of long-term solutions.
- Promote the coordinated efforts of multiple stakeholders, including schools and districts, states, and the federal entities, among others.
- Increase public investments in education and improve their equitable distribution.
- Treat teachers as professionals and teaching as a profession.
“The teacher shortage is probably becoming an even bigger crisis,” said García. “The underlying problems that led to the shortage have not improved in the past few years, and some new ones are popping up or growing worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, our call for action has become even more urgent.”
The specific proposals in the policy agenda to address the teacher shortage include:
- Raising teacher pay to retain current teachers and attract new teachers;
- Elevating teacher voice, and nurturing stronger learning communities;
- Lowering the barriers to teaching that make it harder for teachers to do their jobs;
- Designing professional supports that strengthen teachers’ sense of purpose, career development, and effectiveness.
“The shortage of teachers is a crisis for the teaching profession, and a serious problem for the entire education system. It harms students, teachers, and the public education system,” said Weiss. “The greater shortage of teachers in high-poverty schools contributes to the opportunity and achievement gaps that plague our system as a result. Policymakers must take action to fix the underlying issues—underfunding, poverty and inequality—that have dug us into the deep hole we’re now in.”
EPI has also released a summary of the key findings of the “Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market” series that presents key findings from the first five studies in the series and outlines the policy agenda presented in the sixth report.