If you’re having trouble finding a science, math, or special education teacher, you’re not alone. And if you happen to be in a rural or high-needs school, that challenge extends to many other disciplines as well. 

The teacher shortage is nothing new, but it continues to worsen. News reports and research released in 2016 started describing the nationwide teacher shortage as a “crisis”—with a shortage of principals not far behind. The Institute for Education Statistics found that during the 2011–12 school year, 1 in 5 principals had left their schools by the following year. As a result, many schools and districts across the country report educator vacancies and a serious lack of qualified candidates to fill them.

At its March 2017 meeting, the NASSP Board of Directors updated and revised its position statement on the principal shortage. (You can view it at www.nassp.org/principal-shortage.) We encourage states to adopt the new Professional Standards for Educational Leaders and align their principal evaluation and support systems to those standards. We also urge federal and state policymakers to increase funding for school leader professional development, as well as mentoring and induction programs for new principals. Consider having your district partner with institutions of higher education to improve recruitment efforts and make sure each leader is matched to the best school.

The NASSP Board of Directors has stated its intent to adopt a new position statement on the teacher shortage. Although fewer people entered teacher preparation programs during the Great Recession, of greater concern is the number of teachers leaving the profession. And while salaries, greater accountability, and general working conditions contribute to teacher attrition, administrative support has a huge impact on a teacher’s decision to leave or stay in a particular school.

To address the teacher shortage, the priority for policymakers and school leaders should be focused on those strategies that will get the right teachers with the right qualifications in the schools that need them most. In addition to state-level recommendations on revising teacher certification and licensure requirements, we urge districts to develop partnerships with teacher preparation programs, provide induction opportunities for student teachers, and create “grow your own” programs to encourage high school students to enter the teaching profession.

Here are some key recommendations for school leaders to enact such a program:

  • Provide teachers with opportunities to serve as mentors, instructional coaches, or master teachers, and allow them to take on increased responsibility for professional learning, curriculum, or school improvement activities.
  • Foster opportunities for collaborations to improve student achievement, such as teacher teams and regularly scheduled common planning time.
  • Offer clubs and opportunities for students who are aspiring teachers to learn more about the profession.

Following a 30-day public comment period, the board will give final approval to the position statement at its July 2017 meeting. Please send any comments or recommendations to Amanda Karhuse, NASSP director of advocacy, at [email protected] by April 28.

As Congress is expected to consider reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this year, NASSP will continue to advocate for policies that ensure all students have access to fully prepared and effective teachers and principals. 

Amanda Karhuse is the director of advocacy at NASSP. Follow her on Twitter @akarhuse.