The United States is at a risk of a shortage of teachers. The growing shortfall of teachers is made worse by existing hiring gaps. A study carried out by the Learning Policy Institute which examined federal data to assess the state of teacher supply and demand and its impacts on school staffing and diversity paints a grim picture. The study reported a national deficit of approximately 60,000 teachers, with the shortage being more pronounced in special education in almost all states. Mathematics and sciences subjects suffered the most in teacher deficiency. Specifically, 42 states reported the lack of enough teachers in math, 40 states had teacher shortages in sciences while 30 states had a huge shortfall for teachers of English-language learners. Nationally, 50% of schools and 90% of schools located in poverty-stricken regions had teacher shortages. With the ever-growing need for educators, the study estimated that the annual shortage could reach 122,000 teachers by 2018 if the current trend is not reversed. One of the factors driving this problem is high teacher attrition rates (Will). Because the major cause of shortages is associated with low wages, teachers should be well-compensated well to attract and retain them in schools.
In the article, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Factors that Influence the Retention, Turnover, and Attrition of K12 Music Teachers in the United States, the researchers investigated the factors that influenced teacher retention, turnover, and attrition in a sample of K12 music teachers. The findings of the study showed that music had a higher chance of having part-time jobs compared teachers of other subjects, and did not receive enough support for working with needs students like other types of teachers. These teachers left their teaching positions for better teaching tasks due to dissatisfaction with their working conditions. They also left their current teaching positions for higher salaries or benefits, and show greater satisfaction in their new jobs (Gardner).
Following the negative impacts of severe shortages of teachers in schools, policymakers, and other stakeholders have been trying to come up with solutions. A severe shortage of teachers has been attributed to teachers who are approaching retirement age and an increasing number of student enrolments. On the other hand, there are few graduates who are interested in pursuing teaching careers. This has resulted in a huge gap between the desired number of teachers and those who are currently employed. Declining number of teachers has been a concern for policymakers who feel that schools will decrease the quality of education. In response to the declining teacher numbers, the policy makers have attempted to increase the supply of teachers. Some of the measures include career change programs which are meant to attract professionals to switch to a teaching career. There have also been suggestions to introduce alternative certification programs which allow college graduates to put off their formal education training so that they can begin to teach immediately. Other options include recruiting teachers from other countries while some policymakers have proposed the use of financial incentives such as the signing of bonuses housing assistance, student loan forgiveness, and also tuition reimbursement. According to Ingersoll and Smith (30-33), this approach will not result in solving the teacher problems that the schools face. The authors contend that the demand for teachers has been growing since 1984. The authors also agree that there has been an increase in student enrolment and teachers who are retiring. Although such statistics are correct, the authors pointed out that available data also support the view that retirement, increased enrollment, and lack of teacher interest are not the primary causes for high teacher shortage and consequently, staffing difficulties. Therefore, addressing the teacher shortage suing such statistics will not adequately address the problem. They argued that the teacher problem would persist if the policymakers fail to identify the major problem of teacher shortage. To the authors, the biggest problem is teacher attrition which they found to be the highest among teachers in their early years of service. To provide a long-term solution, the process should begin with a good understanding of the teacher turnover. Ingersoll and Smith (30-33) argued that the teachers are associated with chronic and relatively high annual turnover as compared to other occupations. The authors further observed that although the turnover is high in the teaching occupation, it affects most those who have just joined the service more than any other level.
Previous investigations suggest that teaching occupation is stressful. Approximately 5-20% of US teachers experience burnout at any given time. When compared with other professions, data reveal that teachers exhibit high levels of cynism and exhaustion which are the core dimensions of burnout. Hakanen, Bakker, and Schaufeli (495-513) argue that teacher burnout leads to a decrease in teacher commitment to their job. This might explain why the occupation records the highest turnover than any other profession as per the investigations of Ingersoll and Smith (30-33). The solution to teacher problems lies in addressing issues of teacher commitment, health, and well-being (Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli 495-513). The authors also suggested that the primary concern of schools should be to reduce burnout and job demands. Alternatively, they ned to engage in activities aimed at increasing job resources which ultimately leads to stronger career commitment, lower levels of burnout, and higher levels of work engagement.
Based on his studies on teacher attrition, Craig (81-115) contends that teacher attrition during their early career in service is a perennial problem. Studies show that employers have challenges retaining teachers who are in their early years of the profession. Although the turnover of teachers who have just joined the profession is a global problem, Craig pointed out the situation in the US is even more pronounced. Statistics show that some schools report a turnover rate as high as 85%. For example, Craig provided statistics of Texas state which show that up to 19% of the teachers leave the profession in their first year while a further 2% quit in their second year and 50% of the beginning teachers would have quit the profession by the fifth year. Teacher attrition causes a problem in not only the class but also an economic problem. Nationally, teacher attrition is estimated to cost the US economy approximately $2.2 billion. Despite the availability of teachers who are willing to fill the vacancies in schools, the challenge has been persistent problems of teacher attrition. Terry in Craig (81-115) conducted a study to find out the root causes of teacher attrition. 46.3% of the teachers who quit the service feel they are not valued in the workplace while 45.2% feel that they are not receiving adequate support from the administrators. A further 43.9% leave because of poor workplace policies and conditions. Additionally, other factors include lack of job security, inadequate salary and benefits, and lack of professional development opportunities. Although these statistical measures identify and quantify factors leading to beginning teacher discontent, Craig (81-115) argued that the figures fail to communicate and illuminate how the elements surface and get embedded in the experiences and individual decision making of beginning teachers in a particular urban setting.
Retention of teachers is influenced by many factors including the level of compensation. In the US, teachers are compensated by a rigid schedule that rewards not only experience but also credentials. The compensation schedule in use has been designed with an objective of improving teacher retention and performance. However, Dee and Wyckoff (267-297) argued that despite performance-based incentives which are based on rigorous evaluation of teachers, there has not been any improvement in either teacher performance and retention. The author observed that the findings of investigations which has tried to find out the impacts of performance-based incentives are mixed. Critics of the compensation schedule argue that the rigid compensation schedule has failed to attract as well as retain high-quality teachers. According to the authors, the compensation regime has failed to produce a positive impact in schools that are difficult to staff because the salary schedule used in such schools is similar to the one applied for schools with even better working conditions. There has been State as well as local efforts aimed at providing better incentives for teachers, and therefore compensation schedules are not. However, despite the presence of incentives, performance-based short-term financial incentives associated with student's performance have been found to be ineffective. Dee and Wyckoff (267-297) pointed out that the use of IMPACT, allow for the use of several design features that make it easier for current teacher incentives. While IMPACT created high-powered incentives for teachers with low-performers risk receiving dismissal threats while high performers receive exceptionally high rewards. Another component of IMPACT is that it is associated with a multidimensional aspect of teacher performance that has a greater reliability and transparency than using the test scores alone. Nonetheless, there is no empirical evidence that supports the IMPACT has had any influence on its outcomes.
Teacher shortage has been found to be unevenly distributed among subjects. While some subjects record a small shortage, other subjects have been found to be affected by the severe shortage. For example, math, special education,and science are regarded as hard-to-staff subjects because the are mostly affected by teacher shortage. It is very difficult to find teachers who teach these subjects. According to Feng and Rass (1), the attraction and retention of teachers in these hard-to-staff subjects are largely negatively affected by a combination of relatively high alternative wages, training requirements, and fixed salary schedules. It has been found that secondary schools report 3 to 4 times difficulties in filling positions for hard-to-staff subjects than primary schools (Ingersoll in Feng and Rass 1). Teacher shortage has also been associated with schools attended by low-income students since teachers prefer working in schools with affluent backgrounds and avoid schools with high incidences of indiscipline, low achieving students, and minority students (Peter 450-451). One solution to address the shortage has been to hire uncertified teachers. But uncertified teachers are unlike to stay in teaching in the long run (Miller, Brownell, and Smith in Feng and Rass 1). The solution to teacher shortages in high-need areas according to Hendricks in Feng and Rass (1) is to increase wages. While the most effective strategy has been to offer differential salary by subject area, individual teachers and teacher labor unions have always resisted it. However, where it has been applied, it has worked. Other than differential payments, the alternative has been to adopt a differential compensation scheme such as loan forgiveness, moving expense reimbursement, and temporary retention bonuses. But according to Feng and Rass (3), such differential-compensation schemes are seen as temporary and have failed to materialize. Dolton and Marcenaro-Gutierrez (5-55) also support higher wages by asserting that not only high salaries good for teacher attraction and retention but also for better student outcomes.
The debate on teacher attrition and shortage have been going on for long. Ultimately, the problem would not only lead to s...
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