• Chloe Latham Sikes, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • January 2020 •
Across the country, concerns about a growing shortage of quality teachers are at the forefront of education conversations. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs fell some 35% over the past seven years, representing a potential decrease of nearly one quarter of a million teachers in the workforce at the same time the student population continues to grow (Sutcher, et al., 2016; IDRA, 2018). In the 2017-18 school year alone, the teacher shortage topped over 110,000 teachers (Gallego, 2019).
In Texas, six areas of expertise consistently linger at the top of the teacher shortage list. These areas include bilingual education and English as a second language; computer science and technology applications; math; science; special education; and career and technical education (IDRA, 2018). Despite some recent legislative advances in addressing teacher compensation in Texas (Craven, 2019), teacher shortages in these urgent subject areas continue.
Not just anyone should enter the classroom though. To be a high-quality teacher, individuals need training to be prepared to teach and to do so in racially, linguistically and socioeconomically diverse classrooms. Schools that serve majority low-income students and students of color often experience the greatest teacher turnover, as teachers experience burnout from working in under-resourced schools with minimum support or preparation or are lured to higher-paying, less-demanding jobs in other districts (LPI, 2016). The teacher “churn,” as it has been called (Attebury, et al., 2017), leaves many students without the quality teachers that they deserve.
IDRA led the charge to address teacher shortages in Texas for over 15 years through its series of federally-funded Transition to Teaching programs. We partnered with universities and high-need school districts across Texas to train high-quality teachers to educate diverse classrooms of students, particularly in the critical subjects of English learner education, STEM and special education.
Between 2001 and 2018, IDRA operated six programs through this accelerated teacher certification model. Altogether, these programs recruited, prepared and certified over 800 teacher candidates in the required subjects who went on to positively impact English learners, children who receive special education services, low-income students and students of color across Texas.
Top Teacher Shortage Areas in Texas
Bilingual Education / English as a Second Language
Computer Science / Technology Applications
Career and Technical Education
IDRA’s Transition to Teaching model uniquely combined university-level coursework, classroom experience and dynamic coaching with a focus on serving schools deemed high-need. IDRA released a report in 2018 offering three key recommendations for teacher preparation and certification programs to address the teacher shortage issue: (1) value and practice diversity; (2) include all key stakeholders; and (3) expand intervention models (IDRA, 2018).
Value and Practice Diversity
University-level schools of education must place a high value on teacher education designed for a diverse student population and support the work of teacher candidates across areas of discipline. Universities should express commitment to diversity both in formal coursework and in practice by having teacher candidates experience diverse classrooms, use culturally-sustaining practices, and complete diversity training as part of their preparation.
To increase diversity among teacher candidates themselves, universities and other educational institutions can practice and share successful approaches for recruiting and retaining bilingual and more diverse teachers, especially in high-growth states. For example, IDRA added more mentors to the bilingual/ESL classrooms in participating schools to assure that teachers of record received the quality time needed to become successful teachers.
The IDRA EAC-South developed a free on-demand web-based technical assistance package to help educators increase the diversity of their teaching staff.
Include All Key Stakeholders
Universities and school districts can come together, particularly through nonprofit partner programs like IDRA’s program, to expand the body of research and knowledge to improve effective teacher preparation programs.
Schools of education themselves also need innovative and meaningful partnerships with schools and their communities to support teacher recruitment, preparation and placement. Most communities have untapped human resources that can contribute to fill many of the current needs in the schools.
Expand Intervention Models
Rather than rely on a test-based assessment system, teacher preparation programs should use holistic educator assessment and support programs. These programs should rely primarily on the demonstration of knowledge and performance in the classroom. For instance, in IDRA’s Transition to Teaching programs, the assessment and support strategies included principal recommendations and successful completion of a one-year internship. These strategies contributed to better teacher preparation and retention.
IDRA’s Transition to Teaching model uniquely combined university-level coursework, classroom experience and dynamic coaching with a focus on serving schools deemed high-need.
New teachers in training need consistent, long-term support through asset-based coaching and mentoring (see related article). Teacher training should not stop with certification. As in the IDRA model, in-classroom teachers can engage in co-teaching, group planning and similar collaborative strategies to continuously engage teachers in their own learning of theory and practice.
Through collaborative, persistent and culturally-sustaining models, such as the IDRA Transition to Teaching program, we can address the teacher shortage issue that affects many Texas students. High-quality, certified teachers have the potential to expand students’ educational opportunities for the rest of their lives. More qualified teachers for a more multicultural nation benefits all students now and will for years to come.
Attebury, A., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2017). “Teacher Churning: Reassignment Rates and Implications for Student Achievement,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39(1), 3-30.
Craven, M. (2019). “Texas Legislature Concentrates on School Funding,” IDRA Newsletter.
Gallego, R. (September 11, 2019). Reps. Gallego, Cisneros, Hayes and Houlahan Introduce Legislation to Improve Diverse Teacher Recruitment and Retention, news release. Washington, D.C.: Office of U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego.
IDRA. (2018). IDRA Transition to Teaching Program 15-Year Synthesis. San Antonio: Intercultural Development Research Association.
Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S., Research Brief. Palo Alto, Calif.: Learning Policy Institute.
Texas Education Agency. (July 13, 2018). 2018-2019 Teacher Shortage Areas, letter. Austin, Texas: Texas Education Agency.
Westervelt, E. (September 15, 2016). “Frustration. Burnout. Attrition. It’s Time to Address the National Teacher Shortage,” NPR.
Chloe Latham Sikes, M.A., is IDRA’s deputy director of policy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2020, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2020 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]