How Do We Address the Teacher Shortage?

Ensemble Learning recently partnered with local school districts, charter management organizations, and universities in Stockton, California to combat the teacher shortage. The Exceed the Need Task Force worked together to identify the most effective strategies to provide a high-quality teacher in every Stockton classroom. (The complete report with the recommendations can be found here.)

The recommendations fall into three categories of action:  

1. Attracting teachers: Increasing the pipeline of individuals who want to become teachers helps decrease the number of openings.

This strategy includes engaging high school students, recruiting career changers and veterans to join the teaching force. It involves raising the stature of teachers and making it more attractive.

2. Preparing teachers:  Teachers who feel better prepared and competent stay in teaching longer,¹ and  keeping teachers in their roles longer provides fewer openings for new teachers to fill. This work falls on both traditional teacher training organizations, such as universities, county offices of education, and school districts who continue to support new teachers in their first two years in the classroom. The recommendations include common standards for teacher preparation organizations and closer alignment with the conditions a first-year educator may face. New teacher residency models such as Alder Graduate School of Education provide a new training option and have promising results on student achievement and teachers staying in the profession.   

3. Developing, supporting and retaining teachers: An average school system loses 20% of its teachers a year.  If school systems can keep the teaching staff at a school, the shortage is smaller.  Teachers leave for many reasons, but there are evidence-based practices that will retain more teachers.²   

First, socialization and on-boarding is often left to chance in schools.  Schools can more effectively retain teachers if they pay attention to providing mentors and role models.  The saying that great teachers are made by the teacher next door could not be more true! Part of this work also includes providing feedback to employees. This requires principal training and accountability that feedback is given.  Teachers want to be more effective and need support to get there.

Additionally, training and development decreases a teacher’s desire to leave, but throwing training at teachers is not the solution.   The training needs to align with the needs and context of a teacher’s school. TNTP found that less than 50% of teachers report their professional development was tailored to their development needs and context.³  Refining and improving training doesn’t require additional funds.  It requires conversations with teachers, observations by principals, and collaboration with district offices.  These are manageable changes that can be made in any district.


The solutions to solve the teacher shortage vary by school systems, but no one will argue with providing great support for the educators working hard in our schools.  


¹Darling-Hammond, Sutcher, and Carver-Thomas, 2018; Henke, et al., 2000; Ingersoll, Merril, and May, 2012.

² “Retaining Talent: Replacing Misconceptions with Evidence-Based Strategies” (Allen, Bryant, Vadamam, Academy of Management Perspectives, May 2010

³ “The Mirage: confronting the Hard Truth About Our Quest for Teacher Development”  (TNTP, August 2015).

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