The Impending Teacher Shortage

Source Newsletter for Trustees Header Image
Source Newsletter for Trustees Header Image

Board of Trustees

It’s clear from the recently released report from ACT, The Condition of Future Educators 2015, that the nation faces a teacher shortage in coming years. ACT has conducted research on career and college preparation since its founding in 1959, releasing their annual report every August. The most recent report focused specifically on students showing an interest in a career in education. The results are not promising.

Here are ACT’s four major findings.

  • ACT graduates’ interest in pursuing a career in education is alarmingly declining. Fewer than 88,000 of the 1.9 million students who took the ACT in 2015 indicated an interest of pursuing a career in education. Fewer than 3,700 expressed an interest in pursuing math and science education. Considering there is already a teacher shortage and baby-boomer educators are headed into retirement, the need for new teachers will soon become a national problem.
  • Those graduates interested in pursuing a career in education have lower-than-average achievement levels. Even among those students, 30% missed the criteria for ACT’s College and Career Readiness Benchmarks.
  • Fewer males indicate an interested in pursuing an education career. Of those tested in 2015, more than three quarters interested in a career in education are female. For those interested in early childhood and elementary education, the number rises to 90%.
  • There appears to be a lack of diversity among students pursuing a career in education. According to ACT, 59% of ACT-tested graduates are white. By comparison, of those interested in an education career, 70% are white. The future pool of teachers will likely be less diverse than today.

So, what does this all mean for private-independent schools?

Clearly, the competition for qualified, mission-appropriate teachers will be more intense in coming years. With this in mind, now is the time to prepare for that eventuality. Consider the following advice.

Improve teacher salaries and benefits to attract and retain your best teachers.

ACT recommends that beginning teachers should receive salaries comparable to entry-level salaries for other college graduates in other fields. ISM would add that teacher salaries should be comparable (or better) than educators in local public and private schools—your major competitors for recruiting and retaining quality teachers. Of course, mission-appropriateness and quality are key factors, but keep in mind that those factors may be more costly in the future.

(Note that the Board must be strategic in its approach to financial planning. Trustees must plan based on the impact raising salaries can have on tuition. They must be willing to adjust tuition to provide the funds for improving salaries and benefits. If your teacher compensation is not comparable to that in local public and other private schools, take measures now to correct the problem.)

Develop a strong, effective teacher evaluation system.

Many schools consider evaluation a “necessary evil,” if it’s done at all. However, faculty evaluation, when done well, can help your school attract, develop, and inspire outstanding teachers.

If your school identifies what ISM calls Characteristics of Professional Excellence (that describe how your mission is delivered with excellence), then it can evaluate teachers based on whether or not they demonstrate these characteristics on a regular basis.

For example: If establishing and enforcing consistent standards of student behavior in the classroom is one of the required characteristics of good teaching in your school, then teachers can be evaluated against this measure.

While written evaluation need only occur once per year, verbal “evaluation”—in the form of conversation and feedback—should occur on a regular, on-going basis. The intent is “support,” not “judgment.”

Provide valuable professional development.

ISM research indicates that schools are underfunding for professional development. We suggest allocating at least 2% of your school’s total budget to faculty professional development. Keep in mind that this not only enhances faulty retention, but over time enhances student performance, enthusiasm, and satisfaction.

One of the primary ways that teachers stay energized by their profession over the course of their teaching career is by continually engaging in study, reflection, conversation, practice, collaboration, etc., regarding the techniques and philosophies of teaching.

As Board members, you especially control the purse strings for funding faculty compensation and professional development. Compensation and professional development matter in the recruitment and retention of top-quality teachers. Continue to develop financial benchmarks that are competitive, and support them through the quadrennial strategic planning process.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for School Heads Vol. 12 No. 9 Attracting Exceptional Teachers
The Source for School Heads Vol. 12 No. 2 Conversationas Evaluation
The Source for School Heads Vol. 11 No. 4 Team Professional Development Adds Value to Lessons Learned

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 12 Tuition Increases and Faculty Compensation
I&P Vol. 37 No. 2 A 21st Century Teacher Evaluation Model
I&P Vol. 36 No. 10 Budgeting for Professional Development


Explore ISM’s 40+ professional development events.

Develop new skills, gain confidence in your role, and lead with clarity. Be mentored by leaders who are experts in their field, many currently working in private schools today. Get hands-on experience, network with fellow school leaders, and walk away with an action plan you can use the minute you return to campus.



Upcoming Events. Lead with Clarity.

10/29/2020 — 10/30/2020


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