BOARD INSIGHT: Teacher Shortage Impacts K-12 Schools Across State, Nation

PCSD Efforts that Address the Challenge of Teacher Shortages

Among the most important duties a Board of Education member performs is ensuring the hiring of District educators and administrators. The task of filling our classrooms with the most qualified teachers has always been a priority. This will continue to be extremely important, especially given the magnitude of the teacher shortage in which we and other districts find ourselves.

Take, for example, recent statistics provided by the New York State United Teachers association in its October 2018 Report entitled, Teacher Shortage in New York State:

  • The U.S. Dept. of Education (USDOE) estimates that 1.6 million new teachers will be needed between 2012 and 2022; New York State will need between 10,000 and 18,000 new teachers annually over the same period.
  • As of June 2017, 33 percent of New York Teachers Retirement System’s roughly 265,000 active members are aged 50 or higher, which means they are eligible to retire in the next 5 years.
  • Enrollment in NYS teacher education programs has declined 47% from 2009 through 2016 (from ~79,000 in 2009-10 to ~41,000 in 2015-16).
  • Teachers of color enhance the learning experience of all students, but they are significantly underrepresented in the New York teaching workforce: 53% of students in the state are Hispanic/Latino or African-American, compared to 25% of the teacher population.

The increased demand for new teachers reflects the continued impact of the Great Recession, which resulted in sharp reductions in state revenues leading to extensive layoffs and an abysmal job market for college graduates during that time. Other factors include increasing trends in teacher retirements, increases in K-12 enrollment, dramatic decline in sheer numbers entering the profession, and increased rates in teacher attrition, according to the NYSUT report and confirmed by our own experiences.

Examining the teacher shortage in another way, consider that a decade ago the USDOE identified only two shortage areas in NYS – as compared to 16 shortage areas in 2016-17. The shortage areas touched nearly all educational offerings, including bilingual education, special education, Mathematics, the Sciences, the Arts, Career & Technical Education, ELA, and Reading/Literacy.

A Diverse Teacher Workforce in NYS

As a Board of Education, our sole objective in everything we do is to provide an educational experience that is in the best interests of all our students. Part of that experience is recognizing and celebrating all the ways in which we are different, and then collaboratively leveraging that diversity to bring about “One Pittsford” – a belief in the collective power of our students, families, educators, and staff.

With respect to the teacher shortage as it relates specifically to underrepresented groups here and across the state and nation, we concur with NYSUT’s statement: “A diverse teacher workforce benefits all students and can increase cultural competence helping students to value and to grow more comfortable with cultural, linguistic, and racial differences.” (Source: Diversifying New York’s Teacher Workforce (March 2019)).

The report goes on to say, “The state’s teaching workforce does not currently reflect the diverse population of New York or our nation as a whole.”  While 14.2% of K-12 students are black, the Report continued, only 6.4% of teachers are black. Similarly, statistics reveal that in New York, Hispanic K-12 students represent 21% of the population, while less than 8% of teachers are Hispanic.

Working Toward Solutions

Education leaders at the national, state, and district levels are addressing the teacher shortage in a number of ways. NYSUT, for example, has launched its “Take a Look at Teaching” initiative to encourage more high school- and college-aged students and “career changers” to enter the teaching profession. The intent is not only to tackle the teacher shortage generally speaking, but also to support efforts to enhance the population of educators across all underrepresented groups.

Teacher Mentoring and Induction programs – like PCSD’s Teacher Center, which has served our District’s educators for 40 years! – help support both new and veteran teachers as they navigate significant changes within the industry. It is through programs such as this that teachers become students in pursuit of robust professional development. The District also offers a comprehensive Induction program that supports for 2 years each cohort of teachers new to Pittsford.  Each new District teacher is connected with a veteran educator who serves as mentor.

Many national and state programs have been active for decades, working to reduce or eliminate barriers to entry into the profession and to develop policies that support better recruitment of diverse candidates.

PCSD’s Efforts to Recruit, Retain Diverse Teacher Workforce

With respect to PCSD – understanding legal limitations against profiling job candidates in any way – our District has tried various strategies to increase the diversity of our candidate pool. We have been well represented at job fairs – mostly regionally – but have also traveled to New York City to participate in an education job fair that focused on traditionally underrepresented  groups. 

When recent administrative positions have come vacant, the District posted our openings with the School Administrators Association of New York (SAANYS) which, in addition to posting job vacancies, notifies its entire membership in a broadcast email.

The District also sends a list of its open positions to Ibero-American Action League and the Urban League of Rochester. Because the District recognizes its teacher shortage generally, as well as with respect to all underrepresented groups, we continue to expand our posting notifications to all organizations that may be able to help us reach a more diverse pool, including the GSA, Center for Disability Rights, The Chinese School of Rochester, and many others. 

We recognize that the gears of systemic change grind slowly. We further recognize that we are not alone in confronting this challenge. According to USDOE, NYSED, and MCSBA, all K-12 districts share this burden – as do many colleges and universities. But we also share a commitment to continue working to ensure that our teachers, administrators, and staff deliver the best educational experience for all our kids.