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K-12 teacher shortages remain one of the most disputed questions in education policy today. New researcher show that teacher vacancy levels vary drastically between schools in the same communities. Still, it continues to be a very real issue for some districts and their testing coordinators. How are teacher shortages related to the work of testing coordinators, you might ask. Well, testing coordinators are in the process of testing or preparing for it. Test preparation and administration requires training and manpower. Teachers are needed to help administer tests come test time and subs are needed to relieve teachers for training and fill last minute absences on test days. As such, we are monitoring the topic and tapping into our peers for tips and best practices for addressing the teacher shortage.

A Tennessee-focused study found that most variability in staffing occurs from school to school, rather than concentrating in particular areas of the state.

  • Teacher shortages are an undeniable reality in some communities.
  • They are also a hyper-local phenomenon, with fully staffed schools existing in close proximity to those that struggle to hire and retain teachers.
  • Ambiguity around shortages arises from the decentralized nature of K-12 employment.
  • “Teacher shortages are real, period, however, are not universal.
  • In Tennesee, shortages are both widely distributed throughout the state and narrowly experienced among schools themselves.
  • Secondary schools in Memphis and Nashville, stand out as sites of acute shortage, but vacancies were seen throughout Tennessee rather than concentrating within specific regions or counties.
  • Schools employing a higher proportion of early-career educators who themselves attended a nearby high school reported fewer vacancies.
  • Teacher compensation also played an important role.
  • Strongest indicators of unfilled teaching jobs were school-level turnover rates.
  • Certain academic specialities are also harder to find than others.
  • Insufficient interest in math, science, foreign language, and special education roles.
  • Teacher shortages both before and after COVID are the downstream effect of policies that can be altered.
    • differentiating teacher pay to attract applicants with especially valuable expertise
    • improving working conditions so that all school employees feel more valued.
  • “Shortages don’t just appear out of nowhere by some miraculous force; they are a function of decisions we make.” – Matthew Kraft, Brown University economist 


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