Evidence Matters | Coming Up Short: Reframing the Teaching Profession
November 30, 2023
In the first two posts of our Coming Up Short series, we focused on understanding the numbers behind the teacher shortage, as well as the “why” behind those numbers. In our final post in this series, we look at how we might begin to address these challenges.
Data from CERRA’s recently released South Carolina Educator Supply and Demand Report indicate that finding a way to address challenges and increase the pipeline of teachers will indeed be crucial. At the start of the 2023-2024 school year, 1,613 K-12 teaching jobs remained unfilled in South Carolina, which amounts to a 10% increase over the previous school year. Additionally, previous patterns for vacancies in specific subject areas have held true, with shortages up 14% for science teachers and 38% for special education teachers. Importantly, a new trend has also emerged: shortages of school librarians are up 77% from the previous school year.
According to an NEA report released in October of 2022, in order to reduce the current shortage of teachers, policymakers and state- and district-level leaders must focus on making education a desirable and competitive career path. The report, which outlines a wide range of strategies, suggests that in order to effectively address the shortage over the long term, states and districts must focus on solutions such as:
- comprehensive educator preparation
- competitive pay and benefits
- improved working conditions
- professional respect and autonomy
- comprehensive induction and mentoring
In May of this year, the South Carolina Teacher Recruitment and Retention Task Force released similar recommendations. Among the committee’s proposed solutions within the category of compensation were a minimum starting salary of $50,000 (currently, the starting salary for South Carolina teachers is $42,500), the development of a teacher career ladder (which would allow for the development of additional leadership opportunities accompanied by stipends), extended salary schedule steps, and an additional stipend for those teaching in critical needs subject areas, such as science and special education.
Additionally, the Task Force recommended that a public relations campaign focused on the “value and quality of the profession” would be an important undertaking if the state is to increase the numbers of individuals who are interested in becoming teachers. Along with this campaign, efforts to develop a profile of a fully prepared South Carolina educator, robust mentoring for induction teachers, and improvement in working conditions (e.g., unencumbered planning time, student and parent accountability for behavior, etc.) were also listed as recommendations.
Whether in South Carolina or other states across the country, there appears to be relative consensus about what must happen in order for more teachers to remain in—or join—the profession. For many years, the data have told a story of frustration among current educators and of skepticism among those who might consider a career in teaching. If we are to address the ever-growing crisis, our approach much be solutions-focused and comprehensive, and must tackle the specific cultural and professional challenges facing teachers. More importantly, however, it must start with the recognition that our education system is central to the functioning of society and the future of our country, which must be met with a commensurate investment—both emotional and financial.
Read earlier posts in this series:
Kelly Gregory is the Riley Institute’s Director for Public Education Projects and Partnerships and previously taught for 11 years in South Carolina public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Special Education. She also holds a National Board certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist. She can be reached at email@example.com.