- Desiree Carver-Thomas
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Without changes in current policies, U.S. teacher shortages are projected to grow in the coming years. Teacher turnover is an important source of these shortages. About 8% of teachers leave the profession each year, two-thirds of them for reasons other than retirement. Another 8% shift to different schools each year. In addition to aggravating teacher shortages, high turnover rates lower student achievement and are costly for schools. This report examines turnover trends and causes. It concludes that policies to stem teacher turnover should target compensation, teacher preparation and support, and teaching conditions.
Recent media reports of teacher shortages across the country are confirmed by the analysis of several national data sets reported in this paper. Shortages are particularly severe in special education, mathematics, science, and bilingual/English learner education, and in locations with lower wages and poorer working conditions. Shortages are projected to grow based on declines in teacher education enrollments, coupled with student enrollment growth, efforts to reduce pupil-teacher ratios, and ongoing high attrition rates. If attrition were reduced by half to rates comparable to those in high-achieving nations, shortages would largely disappear. We describe evidence-based policies that could create competitive, equitable compensation packages for teachers; enhance the supply of qualified teachers for high-need fields and locations; improve retention, especially in hard-to-staff schools; and develop a national teacher supply market.
Research illustrates the importance of greater teacher diversity because of the substantial benefits teachers of color provide to all students, and to students of color in particular. Studies also show that policies must focus more effectively on retention of teachers of color, if diversity in the teaching profession is to be sustained. While more teachers of color are being recruited than in years past, their turnover rates are high, in part due to inadequate preparation and mentoring, poor teaching conditions, and displacement from the high-need schools in which they teach. Increasing the number of teachers of color in the workforce requires building high-retention pathways into the field that offer high-quality preparation and financial supports, including service scholarships, loan forgiveness programs, teacher residencies, Grow Your Own programs, ongoing mentorship, and other policies and strategies that improve teacher licensure, hiring, professional growth, and teaching conditions for current and aspiring teachers of color.