How 37 States Are Handling Teacher Shortages

Schools are back in session and districts and states around the United States are experiencing teacher shortages. (A superintendent in Idaho calls it a “famine.”) I searched Google News to help me understand how different states are handling the issue. I found that states are:

  • Increasing compensation and benefits, though not without asking for extraordinary concessions from teachers in some cases. (Related: The teacher pay gap is wider than ever.)
  • Lowering standards, as in Utah, where you can now become a teacher without any additional training beyond content certification, or in Pennsylvania, where they’re relaxing the content certification requirements themselves.
  • Abusing the H1-B program by hiring teachers from the Philippines, Spain, and Mexico.
  • Increasing recruitment efforts by reaching out to college sophomores and juniors more aggressively, by reaching out to former district graduates who might want to teach at their alma mater.
  • Increasing new teacher retention through mentorship programs, especially residency programs, which often pair new and veteran teachers, offer stipends, and require multi-year commitments.
  • Sending administrators back into the classroom, in one case.
  • Doing not really much of anything that I can tell, in another case.

This is to say nothing of macroeconomic trends that may require federal action. For example, the 2008 recession resulted in the layoff of newer teachers (hi!) in favor of veterans who are now retiring and it turns out those newer teachers didn’t stick around.

I don’t claim any kind of policy insight. I just find all of this interesting and a little terrifying. If the states are laboratories of democracy, we’re about to watch a number of lab experiments performed on our nation’s kids.

Increasing Compensation and Benefits

Alabama:

There’s a bill to raise teacher pay by 3 percent, and another proposal for 4 percent. The leader of the Senate, President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, is working on a bill that could offer some teachers a higher rate of pay if they elect not to enter the teacher tenure system.

Colorado:

This year, lawmakers made some progress addressing the problem. They sent the governor a bill that would provide $500,000 for incentives to drive teachers to rural Colorado. The legislation would: Create education training programs through coordinators at colleges in rural parts of the state. Provide stipends to offset tuition costs for student teachers who agree to teach in rural schools. Establish programs in rural areas to identify high school students interested in teaching. Provide money to teachers in rural districts who pursue national certifications.

Florida:

In Pinellas County, teachers can get up to $25,000 in incentive pay to work at low performing schools, which are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education. But to get the full amount, they must have a master’s degree, be at the top of the pay scale, work 90 extra minutes a day, plus some Saturdays — and attend summer sessions. “There’s an ambulance waiting for them at the end of the rainbow there, because it’s almost undoable,” Gandolfo said.

Indiana:

The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Educators – a panel of 49 state office holders and educators – last year issued a report with suggested solutions for state legislators to consider in the 2016 session, however, only one related bill passed. It sets up the New Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship, which offers up to $7,500 per year for students who commit to teaching in Indiana for at least five years.

Iowa:

Iowa College Aid has announced that 126 teachers were offered awards as part of the Iowa Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program. The average repayment was $5,493, for a total of $692,171.

Idaho:

The Legislature has supported the 2013 recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force, which were created to provide Idaho with an unprecedented five-year plan to improve K-12 education and teacher satisfaction. One of those recommendations — the estimated $125 million dollar career ladder — increases teacher pay. Another piece — the state’s leadership premium package — designates additional money for hard-to-fill positions.

Montana:

Moore said that his district has offered candidates for positions such benefits as a four-day school week, health benefits and a competitive salary, and candidates are still not willing to accept positions in rural areas.

Nevada:

The school district is currently in negotiations with the tribe in Owyhee to see if they will be able to provide housing for teachers. However, Zander acknowledge that finding housing in areas like West Wendover where there isn’t any teacher specific housing available may still be a challenge.

New Jersey:

“When trying to find in-demand teachers, districts can negotiate certain options such as initial placement on the salary guide, where the Superintendent does have the ability to recommend that a teacher be place on a higher level,” said Belluscio. “And there’s also the concept of signing bonuses for teachers who would be in a difficult to recruit area.”

North Carolina:

Bracy said part of the state’s teacher shortage has to do with fewer college students enrolling in education majors. Another part has to do with low pay, he said. “It sometimes makes the teaching profession not as attractive as others,” Bracy said. Governor Pat McCrory recently signed the state budget, which would allow a 5 percent increase in pay for teachers. That means the average teacher could make close to $50,000.

North Dakota:

The state’s teacher shortage loan forgiveness program has so many applicants that it can no longer fund all who apply, North Dakota University System financial aid director Brenda Zastoupil told the Education Standards and Practices Board on Thursday. This year, 628 teachers applied to receive up to $1,000 in forgiveness from their college loans. Last year, the number was 525 and the year before, 471. The program allows teachers to apply multiple years for a maximum of $3,000.

Oklahoma:

Voters will have a chance to help teachers out come November due to a proposed state question that will raise sales taxes by 1 percent statewide, which is expected to generate $615 million annually, with about 70 percent designated for a $5,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers and other funding for K-12 schools. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin also has discussed a possible special session that could restore some education funding.

South Carolina:

Frances Welch, dean of the College of Charleston’s Teacher Education Department, said she has seen student enrollment in her department shrinking for years now. She said the state needs to expand student loan repayment programs, such as the Teaching Fellows scholarship, and minority recruitment programs, such as Call Me Mister.

Washington:

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction asked the Legislature this year to raise the salary for beginning teachers, and add signing bonuses and other incentives to make the profession more attractive.

Wisconsin:

Yet, the salary issue cannot be ignored. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the average public school teacher had 14 years of experience and made a salary of $49,908 in 2013-’14. By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau calculated that the average salary for a bachelor’s degree holder nationwide in the same year was $62,048.

Lowering Standards

Alaska:

Along with the substitute regulation change, the state board has proposed to eliminate the state regulations requiring that teachers be “highly qualified.”

Georgia:

He’s one of the many Savannah-Chatham schools hired through the Alternative Pathways to Teaching program. It’s a way those with a Bachelor’s degree in any field can become a teacher in Georgia, through a work-as-you-go certification program that takes one to three years to complete.

Oregon:

The board discussed the possibility of busing students to Stanfield, or using curriculum the ODE has established for small schools where an adult supervises classroom learning but does not have to be a licensed math teacher.

Pennsylvania:

The prospect is sufficiently worrisome to Pennsylvania Department of Education officials that they are eliminating obstacles to becoming a teacher – for instance, by easing math requirements on the basic skills assessments that teaching students take as sophomores and have struggled to pass.

Utah:

Utah has a severe teacher shortage, so it decided to do something about it. Under a new rule, schools can now hire people to teach who have no training in the profession. None whatsoever.

Abusing the H1-B Program

Arizona:

At the start of the summer, Goodsell hired a few recent graduates from out-of-state education colleges. Next, he began Skyping with high-school math and science teachers in the Philippines who had applied for work visas to teach in the United States. He selected 11.

California:

Lewis said her district hopes to fill math, science and special education jobs with teachers from the Philippines. Capitalizing on connections of previously recruited Filipino teachers, officials conduct interviews via Skype and, if successful, navigate the long process of securing an H-1B visa.

Mississippi:

Superintendents in Jackson Public Schools, Noxubee County, Holmes County, Meridian and Gulfport have all hired foreign teachers on temporary visas called H-1Bs, along with others. According to MDE, there are 451 teachers in the state with degrees from outside the country.

Texas:

Dallas employs some 350 teachers from Puerto Rico, including some who have become administrators. The district’s H-1B visa program recently brought in 30 Mexican teachers who will stay for three years. Dallas ISD also takes part in the Texas-Spain Visiting Teacher Program, a J-1 visa initiative that each year brings about 75 Spanish teachers to the district for three years.

Increasing Recruitment Efforts

Illinois:

Wilson says with money tight, they’ve been all about hiring quality teachers instead of just filling their quote. He says that all starts with getting good student teachers from [Southern Illinois University].

Kansas:

Krysl says because of the hiring freeze, they looked for talent from colleges, towns, and states they hadn’t actively recruited from. That’s where they found teachers like Amy Shamp who moved here from Owatanna, Minnesota to teach at Curtis Middle School.

Maryland:

Murphy said the school system has been working to stay in contact with graduates interested in becoming teachers to return to Charles County. “We’re hoping to create that pipeline and connect with those students throughout the years,” Murphy said.

Minnesota:

Education Minnesota is proposing several solutions to attract and keep good teachers. The union wants to build a pipeline program to get students interested in teaching as early as high school. It also wants to change the licensure process and provide a stronger financial incentive. Once teachers get into their careers the union wants more collaboration between educators and administrators, stronger financial benefits and more professional development.

New York:

“Our students need, and our districts need, creative bright young people to enter the profession,” he said. “The way to encourage that is to maintain high standards but for our policymakers to show that they value teachers and they respect teachers and they listen to the voice of teachers when they make education policy.”

Rhode Island:

“The unfortunate reality is fewer people today are choosing to enter the education field and lead our classrooms,” said Rhode Island Teach for America Director Heather Tow-Yick. “There are a number of factors contributing to this: we’re seeing an increasingly polarized public conversation around education; the broader economy is improving and people who experienced the national recession during their college careers are showing more interest in what they see as financially sustainable professions; teacher satisfaction has dipped steeply in recent years; and education has been deprioritized by most Americans when they rank major issues facing our country.”

South Dakota:

“I think it’s all about getting people to go into the teaching profession and that means talking to maybe junior and seniors in high school or freshman and sophomores in college,” he said.

Increasing New Teacher Retention through Mentorship

Arkansas:

Ritter in 2012 founded the Arkansas Teacher Corps, which recruits the highest achievers from all majors and fields to teach in districts that struggle to hire and retain quality teachers. Corps teachers receive a $15,000 stipend, paid over three years, in addition to their regular teaching salary for working in such a district.

Hawaii:

“More teachers are leaving, and fewer teachers are going into the profession,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which represents 13,500 teachers. “We cannot find even emergency hires for these positions.” DOE officials contend that the hiring process is selective and that more focus on a mentoring program for new teachers will continue to boost retention rates.

Virginia:

In Richmond, a more intensive teacher residency is helping retain both new and veteran teachers, said Jan Tusing, a teacher leader-in-residence at VCU’s Center for Teacher Leadership, which runs the residency program. The residency program is an intensive multiyear process where new teachers are paired with a co-teacher. The program’s original goal was to provide extra help for new teachers, but it ended up helping retain the experienced teachers who served as mentors also, Tusing said. That’s a win-win for districts.

Arkansas:

Ritter in 2012 founded the Arkansas Teacher Corps, which recruits the highest achievers from all majors and fields to teach in districts that struggle to hire and retain quality teachers. Corps teachers receive a $15,000 stipend, paid over three years, in addition to their regular teaching salary for working in such a district.

Sending Administrators Back into the Classroom

New Mexico:

“You have so many more schools than you did 10 years ago,” Armenta said. “We’ll do what we did last year, and that is, in those classrooms where we haven’t found teachers yet, we will send in administrators from city center again to fill in.” That means administrators who have desk jobs now but are still licensed to teach will be in the classroom.

Doing Not Really Much of Anything That I Can Tell

West Virginia:

“We’re looking at issues in terms of effort, in terms of teaching our teaching workforce overall, making sure our students are able to navigate properly with the numeracy aspects in the classroom, and making sure they can really solve the problems necessary. So there’s not just one silver bullet, there’s a lot of things in motion here.”

Featured Comment:

blink:

My only complaint is some of your pejorative language (e.g., “abusing work visas”; “experimenting on students”). You may have good reason to disagree with some or all of the responses, but it seems that this requires some argument rather than name-calling.

That these states are performing experiments on kids seems just empirically true to me.

I am, indeed, editorializing about the H1-B. That program was meant to staff hard-to-find individuals in specialty fields. While I agree that teaching is a specialty field, teachers aren’t hard to find so much as hard to compensate and treat in a way that’s fair. Teachers are, in my view, underpaid, undervalued, overworked, and deprofessionalized. The solution is to fix those working conditions, not exploit an immigration loophole to find people who will tolerate them.

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I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

28 Comments

  1. Reply

    This is a great summary of the various approaches being taken and very informative. Certainly we need to figure out the best solution for students, and one implication may be to provide the impetus for us to rethink some existing rigidities that are detrimental to students.

    My only complaint is some of your pejorative language (e.g., “abusing work visas”; “experimenting on students”). You may have good reason to disagree with some or all of the responses, but it seems that this requires some argument rather than name-calling.

    In any case, though, you have provided a great service by collecting and organizing this information. Kudos!

  2. Reply

    This seems like, at least in part, a not unexpected result of the “Fire Bad Teachers” mantra. I believe this repeated message has undermined the profession and lowered the status of teachers in society. I believe the situation could be different if the message transitioned to, “provide data and tools and support to help teachers and administrators better tackle one of the hardest problems in our world”.

  3. Reply

    25 years experience and perfect eval scores and top eoc rates for gen ed and sped, and I cannot get a position in a higher paying district. Crying about hard to fill high school math spots? I say bs.

  4. Reply

    Wow, that West Virginia answer was… terrible.

    I’m curious how you feel the H-1B visa program is being abused. “The US H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.” Isn’t teaching as a specialty field something we’ve wanted? However I get your probable point about it being something like teach for america but even worse because it’s even less likely to turn into something permanent.

    I really like/want to read more about Virginia’s approach – I know Fresno Unified School District has seen similar approaches in their teacher residency program (except many of the master teachers become Admins, but that’s anecdotal).

  5. Reply

    Great post! Thanks for collecting this information in one place! I find it particularly useful locally, because as you’ll note, Delaware is not on your list. Yet, same challenges as everywhere else. Hopefully we’ll make progress this year.

  6. Steven Dunlavey

    August 16, 2016 - 12:28 pm -
    Reply

    This would be hilarious if it was a sitcom like the Office or Parks and Rec. Instead, it is just so sad. I don’t see a way out when most of the public believes we are overpaid, not professionals, and only work 1/2 the year.

    And I’m one of the lucky ones because I’ve had such a good local situation (supportive admin & board in a relatively financial secure district).

  7. Reply

    I would have to say there are more stories here than is findable in a quick search.
    For example, Nevada is also lowering the standards significantly: http://www.rgj.com/story/news/education/2016/03/06/new-regulations-skirt-qualifications-teach-nevada/80621914/ or this from the school district: http://www.washoeschools.net/Page/4208

    AND they are abusing the H1-B visas: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/01/27/faced-with-deep-teacher-shortages-clark-county.html

    And working on recruitment efforts across the country.

    I really like the quote from the State Board of Education that refers to teachers as “warm bodies.” “Without the warm bodies, it will not work,” Wynn said of the reforms and increased funding, telling districts they “must take advantage” of the extra funding. “We’re shining a very bright light today.”
    http://www.rgj.com/story/news/education/2015/10/08/schools-crisis-nevada-short-nearly-1000-teachers/73618992/

    What a great way to refer to skilled professionals.

  8. Reply

    A related issue that I’ve been wondering about is the effect of charter school expansion on teacher pay. In my state, NJ, charter schools keep expanding which means there are fewer students (and teaching jobs) in traditional public schools and more students (and teaching jobs) in charter schools. Since charter schools seem to pay teachers less on average, is the charter school movement unintentionally lowering average teacher salaries even more?

    • There’s nothing unintentional about it. It’s an attempt to move to a corporate model where you pay workers less, and skim more profit (off the taxpayers’ backs) at the top, usually at dubious “management” companies.

      Expect teaching positions to be farmed out to low-paid, often uncertified, and/or foreign contracted workers more and more to meet that profit objective. If I still had kids at school age, I’d be scared, frankly.

  9. Reply

    Michigan recently passed a law allowing uncertified teachers to teach in the city of Detroit only. The Interim Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, Alycia Meriweather, has said that she does not support this and is not pursuing this as an option to fill openings in the district.

    But what’s happening in Detroit is a hot mess. I encourage anyone with a national voice in education to research the situation and amplify attention to it.

  10. Reply

    It boggles my mind that $50,000 is an acceptable average salary for teachers… In my province, our salaries start at $43K USD, but increase to $67K after 10 years, with a B.Ed. If you have a Master’s (or a B.Ed and another Bachelor’s), after 10 years, you make almost $70K. That seems more in line with other professions that require that amount of education to do the job. Why is the US determined to undervalue its teachers?

  11. Reply

    Thanks for helping to give voice to this issue. There is also little being done to support retention of experienced math teachers—and by “experienced,” I mean effective teachers with five or more years’ of experience who are committed to staying in the classroom. Once you cross that five-year mark, you start getting opportunities at better schools (public and private) and in more affluent districts where the pay differential is often $20,000 or more over what you are making right now. Even if you love your job teaching in a high-poverty district, it’s hard not to get worn down by that kind of earning potential and career development opportunity. Yet nobody seems to be focused on (a) meaningful retention of existing effective teachers or (b) recruitment of more mature, late-career “switchers” who are more likely to survive the kinds of stupidity and workplace abuse you tend to encounter as a public school teacher.

    It definitely feels like a world gone mad.

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

  12. Reply

    I have found the federal student loan programs to be a joke, I’d call it a scam except that would imply organization.

    0+ years teaching in Title one schools and every time I have applied a loophole prevents me from qualifying.

    It would amount to about a 1,000-1,500 dollar (post tax) raise for me (tax benefits notwithstanding), but the security of not still owing the tens of thousands I still do would be quite a relief.

    Writing my congress persons ( as well as the federal student loan ombudsman) has accomplished nothing.

    Just my 2-cents…

    (And I didn’t even mention being on pay freeze, or decrease 6 of last 7 years, the increases in health insurance or the yearly contracts approved in May/June of the school year which they affect)

  13. Reply

    “Teachers are, in my view, underpaid, undervalued, overworked, and deprofessionalized. The solution is to fix those working conditions, not exploit an immigration loophole to find people who will tolerate them.”

    That’s nationalism, and I don’t approve. There’s no reason to discriminate against foreigners.

  14. Reply

    It isn’t nationalism, it’s protectionism.

    Lots of people also disapprove of protectionism. They’re generally the same people who favor the priorities of capital over labor. In my view, we’re in this teaching shortage, to some large degree, because the position of labor has eroded over the last several decades. Worse working conditions have led to a teaching shortage. Importing compliant labor from other countries doesn’t solve those problems.

  15. Reply

    Protectionism refers to restrictions on trade; not restrictions on labor. But at any rate, you’re opposing a large increase in the salaries of foreigners as well as a decrease in the cost of education to the general public because it slightly decreases the salary of native teachers. If you used that logic for every industry, you could eliminate nearly all progress in history. Let’s get rid of that spinning Jenny; it’s reducing the salary of spinsters. We could ban combine harvesters and eliminate imports and that would increase the salary of farmers too. Food prices would go up, but the farmers would receive more money for each item sold. You’re privileging one group above all others.

  16. Reply

    @David, I’m not an absolutist here.

    Driverless cars are likely to put millions out of work, for example. While I want a stronger safety net for the unemployed drivers, I welcome the technological progress.

    But teaching isn’t a market like transportation is a market. The customer is unclear. (Is it the parents, the student, the administration?) What constitutes a gain is also unclear. With transportation, it’s easy: did I get from Point A to Point B, safely, at low cost.

    In my view, the gain from these Filipinx teachers is compliance for administrators and depressed wages for parents (whose taxes pay the teachers). The students suffer and need legal protection.

  17. Reply

    Dan, this is excellent work.

    Something else I noticed: Edsource reported that San Jose Unified is removing the “years worked” cap from their salary scale. That’s a potential game changer. Lots of teachers are chained to their district because they’d have to take a huge paycut to move closer to home, or leave for a school with “easier” students–or move to a higher paying district.

    If more districts remove the “years worked” capped, they’ve taken away a huge disincentive for teachers to change jobs. But what I anticipate in this case is a tremendous vacuum effect as the richer districts suck up all the experienced teachers who would otherwise stay put at low income districts. This could also be a big issue when schools start changing discipline policies (restorative justice, zero suspensions, etc). Freeing up teachers to move is a big deal.

    They will lose tenure, but that again just means the teachers moving will be the strongest with the least to risk.

    Loan forgiveness: I’ve had somewhere in the neighborhood of $30K forgiven, with another $17.5K forgiven soon, so they tell me. It’s not a scam.

    “A related issue that I’ve been wondering about is the effect of charter school expansion on teacher pay.”

    The more interesting question I never see addressed is the effect of charter school expansion on teacher *scarcity.* Charters can cap. If a district has X students with z teachers at Y schools, then charters create Y + a schools, meaning z+b teachers. I made those letters up.

    And you’re absolutely right this is H1B abuse. Barry Garelick wasn’t able to get a job. Lots of second career teachers have a tough time getting hired.

    Go nationalism.

  18. Reply

    Dan, I’m huge fan and I’ve been following the blog for about two years now. I am a recent mathematics education graduate from University of Colorado Boulder. I am currently in my student teaching phase working in Boulder Valley School District, teaching a 6th grade math class. And yes, I use your website daily.

    I love that you are addressing this issue. It was really interesting to see what different states are doing, or not doing to address the teacher shortage.

    I can only speak of my current experience as a newly graduated student teacher but CU Boulder has some incredible programs that bring undergraduates into the teaching profession. I cannot comment on what it is like being a novice/veteran teacher in Colorado.

    CU Teach is a program for secondary math and science education and from the first semester I was working hands on in public schools. Kim Bunning was the fearless leader of the math section until recently she has retired. Once the program is completed, undergrads log around 500+ hours working with teachers in local schools. The networking is amazing and I get to observe and learn from excellent teachers.

    Also, I take part in a program called Noyce Scholars which is funded by the Robert Noyce Foundation. I’ve recieved around $30,000 over the last four years to be part of a teacher research team that is composed of one novice teacher, a veteran teacher, and an undergraduate researcher. We have been researching growth mindset for the past three years (sidenote: we attended the MSM Conference in Santa Fe in the Spring and we won the train challenge and got props from you! Go Team Percy!! Go Carol Dweck!). With the money I was awarded, I committed to teaching five years in a “high needs low income” district. Which means a variety of things, especially in Colorado. Essentially, I get paid to conduct educational research and network with incredible educators and go to conferences all over the country. Pretty sweet.

    Just wanted to add my perspective on what is going on in Boulder Colorado. I am lucky enough to be supported and surrounded with highly qualified teachers! Keep doing what you’re doing!

  19. Reply

    Interesting how little to no attention is paid to the root cause of the nationwide teacher shortage: abuse of teachers.

    Respect the professionals on the job. Trust in their work. Stop dictating from consultants who wrote the Common Core.

    If you don’t do that, you’ll drive most of the qualified people out of one of the top three most important profession in the world.

  20. Reply

    @Diana R, thanks for sharing your testimony. Residencies like KSTF, MfA, BTR, and others seem like really promising paths towards re-professionalizing the profession and keeping more teachers teaching. Maybe too expensive to scale but very promising.

    • I work in foreign language, school starts in a couple of weeks, and a cursory search this morning showed over 40 Spanish teacher positions still advertised throughout the state, both urban and rural districts.

      It’s at crisis levels in Colorado this year. It’s not getting better. (BTW that marijuana funding cannot go to teacher pay.)

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