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Increased Teacher Scrutiny Could be Factor in Pending Teacher Shortage Crisis

Within the next 10 years, the United States could be facing a significant shortage of teachers — at a rate of more than 100,000 teachers annually, according to a recent report by a national think tank.

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) points to troubling trends that have been developing over the past five years, leading to that projected shortage. They include low enrollment in teaching programs and high teacher attrition — coupled with steadily increasing student enrollment. As a result, the number of teachers has declined by 240,000 in that five-year period, the LPI noted.

Similar research backs those finding, revealing that 50 percent of teachers will leave the school district that hired them or abandon the profession altogether within a five-year period. The type of turnover is costing American school systems about $2.2 billion annually.

Here are several ways that school districts can focus their efforts on retaining teachers.

Address teacher frustrations. Surprisingly, studies revealed that salary wasn’t the main reason that teachers gave for leaving the profession. According to Richard Ingersoll, a University of Pennsylvania professor, who studies teacher turnover and retention, many teachers are citing their inability to influence decisions that was frustrating.

“One of the main factors is the issue of voice, and having say, and being able to have input into the key decisions in the building that affect a teacher’s job,” Ingersoll told NPR. “It does vary across schools and it’s very highly correlated with the decision whether to stay or leave.”

Ingersoll also noted that having a say can range from the overall school system to the classroom. “It turns out both levels are really important for decisions whether to stay or to part,” he said. Also, unlike boosting salaries across the board, better managing teachers doesn’t cost a lot of money to fix, he said.

Recognize pressure about teacher performance linked to student test scores. Teachers are facing significant pressure based on teacher evaluations that are based on student test scores and under No Child Left Behind initiatives. Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute said that studies revealed about 25 percent of teachers reported leaving the profession because of pressure related to that type of scrutiny.

Support teachers in high-risk areas. Teacher turnover is particularly problematic in schools with higher concentrations of poor and minority students, students learning English as a second language, and special education students. According to LPI, school districts should address such shortages by offering competitive compensation packages, forgivable loans and scholarships, and providing teacher residencies in urban and rural districts.