National teacher shortage crisis: Miami experts on potential ways to address shortage and why the problem impacts society
“It's worse now more than ever.” — Brian Schultz
The teacher shortage has become a national crisis. COVID-19 has exacerbated the shortage, but other factors like burnout, a lack of adequate preparation and support, increased school violence, and political divides over curriculum and content are also at play. Miami University experts speak about the importance of having more quality teachers, potential ways to address the shortage, and why this problem will impact our entire society.
Jason Lane, dean of Miami University’s College of Education, Health, and Society, is an expert on educational policy, including efforts to address the teacher shortage, and has been leading statewide efforts to strengthen and diversify the teacher education pipeline.
Lane, who also recently wrote about teachers quitting in droves, says if we don't have great teachers, we won't have great schools, and if we don't have great schools, we won't have great communities.
- “More and more teachers are leaving before retirement. They're not staying the full 20-25 years anymore. At the same time, we're seeing fewer people come into education. This is setting up a real crisis across the country, and we see the most acute challenges in urban and rural settings.”
- “To address the shortage, we have to lean into ‘grow your own’ programs. Our commitment is to work in partnership with local school districts to identify new ways to encourage more students early on, starting in junior high, to think about teaching as a career, and to show them why it’s a powerful profession.”
- “We also have to reach more diverse populations. We're not going to address the shortage by only engaging the populations that have traditionally come into teacher education. We also need to think critically about engaging more students who come from black and brown communities.”
- “No one entity can address this shortage. We need strong regional approaches that involve K12, higher education, community leaders, and elected officials working together to ensure that we have strong and diverse pipelines of future educators.”
Brian Schultz, chair and professor of Teaching, Curriculum and Educational Inquiry, is an expert in a variety of educational and school-based issues centering on justice, equity, and curriculum.
Schultz says a multitude of contextual factors make the shortage “worse now more than ever,” which is a problem that can erode the democratic foundations of society.
- “Teachers are often blamed for the ills of society. When we talk about a lack of achievement, for instance, it rests solely on the teacher not meeting student needs. When in reality there’s a lot going on in society that many kids must face like inadequate health care, inadequate housing, or inadequate access to food, which all play into success and achievement at school.”
- “Teachers are also operating in a space of fear because they don’t want to lose their job or become targeted by parents or politicians because of misunderstood concepts that have become buzzwords such as critical race theory or new laws about what can and cannot be taught in classrooms. This resistance to what has been deemed 'divisive concepts' forces teachers to forego expertise in content knowledge and pedagogy in order to satisfy a polarized political landscape.”
- “In some states, there’s a push to de-professionalize education so anyone may be able to teach without a degree or license. But these non-teachers will be unlikely to have the appropriate theoretical or pedagogical acumen to empower students with the necessary critical and digital literacy skills to become problem solvers and decision makers.”
- “Being a good teacher isn't simply about the transmission of knowledge. When we only do that, students don't become people who think critically. They become passive consumers of other people's knowledge and wisdom. Then we risk indoctrination and the acceptance of things without question.”