How Schools are Bridging Gaps from Teacher Shortages

Janelle Cox
Janelle Cox
M.S. in Education
A yellow post-it note reads “teachers wanted.”

Schools across America are feeling the repercussions of teacher shortages. Teachers on staff are being forced to cover unsupervised classrooms during their breaks or fill any gaps along with their regular duties. Some states allow veterans to teach their students, while others recruit college students to step in.

You may have even heard about schools going to four-day school weeks or back to remote learning. These are just a few of the many effects schools are dealing with because of a lack of staff. News coverage has warned of these teacher shortages, and the reality is, it has been a long-term challenge. Individuals everywhere are often wondering: how bad is the teacher shortage?

The Continuing Teacher Shortages

Why are educators leaving or not entering the field? This is not the first-time schools have had trouble filling positions. After the Great Recession in 2008, many schools had a hard time finding qualified teachers, especially for students with disabilities or in low-income areas.

Today, a few theories as to why America’s schools are so short-staffed includes:

  • Low pay
  • New policies
  • Laws restricting what teachers can say and do
  • Pandemic-related sickness or exhaustion

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten told the Washington Post that he thinks the political situation in the United States, combined with the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the teacher shortage 2022.

How Schools are Bridging Gaps from Teacher Shortages

What are school districts doing to address teacher shortages and high demand jobs in education? Here are a few ways schools are strategically addressing this crisis.

Increasing Incentives for Prospective Teachers

Offering more competitive compensation is what many school districts are now doing in hopes of recruiting prospective teachers and keeping their current ones. According to a research report, public school teachers who voluntarily left teaching during the pandemic cited stress as one of the main reasons why they left. Among the teachers surveyed in the report, about one in five of them sited: “The pay was not sufficient to merit the risks or stress.” These results suggest that increasing salaries is something many teachers desire and need.

Offering bonuses is another key strategy some school districts are employing. California and Texas are now offering new hires a sign-on bonus, while states like Florida and Georgia are using federal relief funds to keep teachers in the classroom.

Some areas are even trying to expand recruitment of new teachers by offering apprenticeships for those stepping into the career.

Relaxing Qualifications

Some states like Arizona are relaxing teachers’ qualifications to help fill the teacher shortage gap. Arizona’s governor signed a bill that prospective teachers can now begin to work in the classroom and get paid before they even finish their bachelor’s degree.

In Alabama, teachers who let their licenses expire are now offered a one-time renewal option without any academic requirements. Many other states have also loosened their job criteria to combat the teacher shortage. Some aren’t requiring a college degree and will supply training on the job because out of desperation to fill teaching jobs.

Moving to Four-Day Week Schedules

Some schools that lack the staff and who can’t afford to offer bonuses are now switching to four days of school per week because they feel they have no other choice. According to The Wall Street Journal, at least 800 U.S. school districts turned to four-day school weeks to keep schools open. The goal was also to attract new hires and retain current staff.

If you’re wondering if this four-day school week is attracting teachers, it is. According to a research study conducted by the RAND Corp., the four-day school model versus the five-day-a-week model does indeed help attract and retain new teachers.

Remote Learning

This past year the pandemic forced many schools to go to remote learning multiple times because of an uptick in sickness. While many schools were already short of teachers and substitute teachers due to the pandemic, temporarily going remote was the only option for many districts. Today, many schools, yet again, must resort back to remote learning because the staff is thin.

Supporting Current Staff

Another strategy school districts are employing to help tackle the teacher shortage is to support their existing staff. The demands of teaching during a pandemic caused many teachers to leave or consider leaving their jobs. Some schools are trying to make the workload more manageable for their staff by investing money or using relief funds to hire more staff.

Other schools are supporting staff by using early release days for teachers to get more work down and using what funds they have to create mentoring programs and additional training for teachers.

These are just a few strategies school districts are doing to address the immediate crisis of teacher shortages felt heavily in specific states, areas, and districts. There’s no time to lose. We must invest in our teachers. This is just a reminder of how important a role that teachers play.

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