April 11, 2021

Is teaching still an appealing profession? A growing teacher shortage worries experts

Long Beach Unified is facing a worrying but all-too-familiar problem: Finding enough qualified teachers, or even substitutes, to fill what some experts see as a growing shortage in the midst of an unpredictable pandemic.

This year, leaves of absences in Long Beach increased by 35 percent, and fewer than half of its 1,100-member substitute pool signaled a willingness to work. Long Beach’s experience tracks with a nationwide shortage of substitutes. But the country’s teacher shortage runs far deeper than substitutes. It has morphed into a serious, existential threat for the profession. And there are indications it may be getting worse.

A Learning Policy Institute report found the stress of COVID-19 starting to contribute to early retirements, prolonged leaves and burnout in the rural and urban districts they surveyed. Some systems are asking existing teachers to take on additional responsibilities to fill gaps, along with leaning on administrators, interns and, increasingly, under-credentialed teachers to cover classes.

The number of under-credentialed teachers and those using emergency permits to teach are typically a good indicator of shortages, says co-author Desiree Carver-Thomas, because districts are only authorized to hire them when well-qualified teachers are not available.

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