Illinois had about 4,000 unfilled school jobs open last fall, and that shortage is expected to be greater this year because of the pandemic. The information comes from a survey of school superintendents conducted in 2019. School staff in that count include teachers and paraprofessionals, such as aides, and administrators. Data for a new survey will be collected in September said Mark Klaisner, the President of the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents. “We’re very, very concerned that teacher pipeline is not what it needs to be. And the teacher shortage is at a catastrophic level,” he said. Klaisner says he recognizes that senior teachers may opt for retirement rather than work in classrooms where they risk infection.
Since the mid-2000s, career and technical education (CTE), formerly known as vocational education, has been undergoing a renaissance. Characterized at one time by programs that directed academically underprepared students into a relatively limited set of occupations with few opportunities for advancement, CTE today is more often linked to high-growth, high-wage career sectors designed to help students move toward sustainable, middle-class futures. Modern high school CTE programs are often referred to as “high-quality CTE,” and they are designed to help students build career skills and earn credentials through sequenced coursework, postsecondary credit acquisition, and exposure to relevant work-based learning experiences. These kinds of programs, which are on the rise, are poised to expand even more in the coming years.
While teacher turnover comes from a variety of causes, retirements typically make up about one-third of all teachers leaving the profession. In this post, I’ll look back at what we can say about teacher retirements during a “normal” economic recession and then discuss what’s different about the current environment and how that may affect teacher decisions. Based solely on structural factors, we should expect teacher retirements to proceed along normal lines, or perhaps a bit higher than normal. About 90 percent of public school teachers are enrolled in defined benefit pension plans, where retirement benefits are guaranteed based on the individual’s years of experience and age. Those plans offer predictable, guaranteed benefit payments regardless of external economic factors.
As U.S. schools closed their doors this past spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a little-considered effect was the impact of school closures on the preparation of the next generation of educators. Teacher and leader candidates all over the country had their field experiences abruptly cut short, and educator preparation programs (EPPs)—in partnership with school districts and state education agencies—had to adapt quickly to ensure candidates continued to receive high-quality preparation and were able to complete their licensure requirements. As districts begin to enact school opening plans, EPPs are building off of lessons learned from the spring as they engage candidates in equity-centered, deeper learning preparation.
While many institutions of higher education and educator preparation programs are talking about equity in education and the need for actionable change, having a deep passion and a meaningful, verbal commitment to social justice is not enough. We cannot move the needle forward in creating a more equitable education system until we address the root areas where change needs to happen—implicit, institutional, and systemic biases. The data is clear. We live in a more segregated society now than in the past 30 to 40 years. When students are segregated in elementary, middle, and high school, they may not have any meaningful interactions over a long period of time with people who are different from them.