States Respond to a Growing Teacher Shortage

According to a report conducted in 2016 by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), many states are facing a growing teacher shortage. The report states that between 2009 and 2014, teacher education enrollment dropped by 35%. Beyond a shortage in the supply of newly educated teachers, the Learning Policy Institute attributes a large part of the shortage to high levels of attrition. U.S. attrition levels are estimated to be around eight percent annually, with teachers in high poverty and high minority schools being more likely to leave the profession early. Many factors contribute to the decision to leave teaching behind, including administrative support, wages, and professional learning opportunities.

In response to teacher shortages, several states, including Oklahoma, Utah, and Arizona, have lowered teaching requirements. This can provide a temporary fix in the supply of teachers, but it can prove to be a short-term solution. Combatting high attrition rates is often cited as the key to reducing teacher shortages and states have had to address this in their policy solutions. These solutions can range from raising wages, extending loan forgiveness programs, and providing additional incentives to teachers willing to work in certain subject matters. In 2016 Nevada created a $9.8 million fund to incentivize profession development, leadership training, and retention efforts for teachers and principals.

Shortages vary by state, district, and even subject matter. The policy landscape of teaching also varies by state, making some labor markets more attractive than others. Re-entrants, or teachers who have left the profession and could possibly return, are an important supply source in the teaching labor market, especially with the decline teacher education enrollment. According to the survey data analyzed by the LPI report, 40 percent of potential re-entrants cited state certification reciprocity and nearly 70 percent cited the ability to keep retirement benefits as important factors for reentry. These numbers indicate that portability of both licensure and benefits could help to ease attrition. Certifications like the National Board Certification can help to increase teacher portability. The National Board Certification is used in almost 32 states and several states use it as a measure for license reciprocity.[1]

For state leaders looking to see where their state stands, the U.S. Department of Education recently published its annual report on nationwide Teacher Shortage Areas by state, which also provides district-level and subject matter data.


[1] Darling-Hammond, Lisa. “Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness How Teacher Performance Assessments Can Measure and Improve Teaching,” The Center for American Progress. 2010.