Fewer college students enrolling in college teacher preparation programs and more teachers leaving for higher paying careers or retirement has led to the teacher shortage in Arizona and across the nation.
Nationally, 35 percent fewer college students studied to become teachers between 2009 to 2014, according to “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand and Shortages in the U.S.” by Lieb Sutcher, Linda Darling-Hammond and Desiree Carver-Thomas published in September.
Teachers who return to the classroom after leaving the field make up about one-third of each year’s teacher supply, depending on economic conditions that make teaching more or less attractive, according to the report.
In Arizona, 7.7 percent of teachers left the profession between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school year, the report said.
Teachers said dissatisfaction with their work conditions and administrative support factored into their decisions to leave the profession.
Those most likely to leave the field are teachers with little preparation, those who teach in high-poverty, high-minority or urban schools and teachers of color.
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Why is there a shortage now?
After years of teacher layoffs during the Great Recession, school districts are seeking to hire more teachers because the number of K-12 students is increasing, to return to the smaller class sizes they had before the recession and bring back classes and programs cut during the economic downturn, according to the report.
Teacher shortages affect some states, subject areas and students more than others because of lower salaries, more challenging working conditions, fewer teacher preparation college programs and policies that influence recruitment and retention.
What could end the shortage?
If the percent of teachers leaving the field each year was cut in half, that would reduce the shortage more than any other factor, the report said.
To reduce the percentage of teachers leaving, policy makers should:
- Create competitive, equitable compensation packages that allow teachers to make a reasonable living across all kinds of communities
- Enhance the supply of qualified teachers for high-need fields and locations through targeted training subsidies and high-retention pathways
- Improve teacher retention, especially in hard-to-staff schools, through improved mentoring, induction, working conditions, and career development
- Develop a national teacher supply market that can facilitate getting and keeping teachers in the places they are needed over the course of their careers.
“At first, the price tag for these investments may seem substantial, but evidence suggests that these proposals would ultimately save far more in reduced costs for teacher turnover and student underachievement,” the study said.