New report examines Pennsylvania teacher shortage, proposes solutions

PITTSBURGH — Researchers have published a new and extensive report examining the factors that are contributing to the state’s teacher shortage.

“We really are seeing a dire and worsening teacher shortage crisis across the Commonwealth,” said Laura Boyce, Executive Director of Teach Plus Pennsylvania, a non-profit.

The 36-page report was written by Boyce along with an author from another non-profit, the National Center on Education & The Economy.

It seeks to summarize the discussions held among education leaders during a summit last September.

According to Boyce, Pennsylvania’s supply of teachers has plummeted by about 2/3 over the last 10 years. States nationwide are facing shortages as well, but most aren’t quite as significant.

While the pandemic exacerbated the problem, the shortage “goes back at least a decade if you look at trends,” Boyce said.

The study attributes the shortage to a number of factors. For instance, as teacher salaries remain low, the costs to becoming a certified teacher are meanwhile increasing, the report claims.

It also notes that interest in becoming a teacher is declining, and that new teachers don’t receive the necessary preparation to feel well-equipped and ready to succeed in the classroom, which hurts retention.

Boyce said that “working conditions” are also tough for some, “which includes not just pay but also how teachers are treated at the building level, at a societal level... the conditions that they’re dealing with in terms of how much time they have to plan and collaborate... whether they have opportunities to advance in their careers.”

The report outlines the following policy strategies to improve the teacher workforce:

1. Incentivize high-quality teacher preparation, characterized by rigorous coursework and intentionally designed clinical experiences developed in partnership with local education agencies.

2. Invest in teacher retention through well-defined career ladders.

3. Expand pathways into teaching for youth and paraprofessionals.

4. Improve the financial value proposition for becoming a teacher.

5. Improve data collection to allow for targeted investments in the teacher pipeline.

“This is the most important investment that we can make in our childrens’ future and our future economy and workforce,” Boyce said. “If you don’t have strong teachers, you don’t have a strong workforce, because our teachers are preparing students for every other kind of job. And so, it’s really the smartest and most vital investment we can make as a society that will pay off in so many ways.”

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