A Short History of the Current Teacher/Administrator Shortage and Some Ideas How to Solve It
Dr. Jim Rosborg
In the February 1 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Kathryn Dill wrote a compelling article entitled “Companies Are Hot to Hire Teachers Quitting in Droves." She stated that teachers are leaving the education profession to "work in sales, software, healthcare and training and other fields." It is not surprising Dill stated that Covid protocols such as switching between online and classroom instruction, with the additional problems of teaching challenging students, and dealing with difficult parents and administrators, has led to a mass exodus of teachers in our profession. This departure should be no surprise in Illinois. The downward spiral of teachers and administrators leaving the profession began in 2010. The elaborate teacher/principal evaluation process from the Charlotte Danielson framework, as well as further requirements from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) staff, created unnecessary burdens on educators. An additional major factor included no teacher license state-to-state reciprocity which discouraged teachers from coming to Illinois. Other issues causing the teacher shortage long before the Pandemic include the lack of social and emotional support, very few state incentives (such as teacher tuition scholarships as given in the 1960s and 70s), and low competitive salaries exasperated by Illinois having no State budget for three years.
Most of us know the history. The licensure division of ISBE, along with the Center for the Study of Educational Policy at Illinois State University, used the resources of a $6 million Wallace Foundation School Leadership Grant to force a major teacher and administrator licensure change in Illinois. This effort, which included a very unfair university-required entrance examination, titled the Teacher Basic Skills Test, was created specifically to reduce the number of licensed teachers in Illinois. The developers of this test were successful in achieving their goal. In the process, they used skewed data, such as including individuals that had retired or left the profession, to get support for their misaligned messages from educators and the public. The reduction of teacher licenses has had a cascading effect leading to a reduced number of principal licenses issued by the State, and, accordingly, fewer superintendent licenses. Many educators also fell for their plan of attack in the spirit of reform. Several of the decisions were made by individuals who had never been principals and/or superintendents. Sadly, many highly respected educators, such as Dr. William Phillips at University of Illinois Springfield, Dr. Nick Osborne at Eastern Illinois University, Dr. Ken Jandes at American College of Education, Dr. Howard Bultinck at Northeastern Illinois University, and myself at McKendree University, were looked upon as obstructionists as we strongly disagreed with many of the efforts. These individuals were all award-winning school administrators before they went on to university positions. Sad to say, The Center and ISBE at the time made little effort to listen to seasoned and honored practitioners. Below are some of the key points we made in 2010:
- We should not try to limit the number of “teacher certificates” (the terminology at the time) as many of the graduates go into other fields which then reduces the pool of teacher candidates. We also stated that it was very important that there was a rich resource of teacher candidates from which school districts could choose. Now, as expressed by Ms. Dill in the Wall Street Journal, teachers are qualified for other work force positions, and they are leaving the field of education. This concern has been verified by Dill as she cited data from the Labor Department that from January to November 2021 nearly 550,000 educators resigned their school jobs in the United States. Because of the efforts to minimize both administrative and teacher certificates (licenses) from 2010 – 2020, we currently do not have enough qualified candidates to replace individuals leaving the field.
- Universities knew that their principal preparations programs included individual student candidates who might not want to be administrators but were completing administrative programs to become better teachers or teacher leaders. Universities and school districts knew that the graduate-level principal preparation programs made these candidates better teachers and the program, notwithstanding teachers becoming administrators, was better for our profession. Sad to say, ISBE created a new rubric for principal preparation programs which had 181 items and 46 pages of requirements which forced university personnel to write more than 500 pages of explanation to ISBE to simply offer the principal program. Many of the 181 items in the required one year internship led to positive experiences for future principals, however dozens of the items were nothing more than unnecessary “busy work” which resulted in significantly reducing the number of principal candidates. All university principal programs had an intense curricular component. One of the most egregious components in the initial ISBE rules was eliminating Type 73 (guidance counselors, school psychologists, speech therapists, and nurses) from achieving the principal license. Under the current ISBE leadership, this has now been changed to allow Type 73 personnel to earn their principal licensure.
- We stated the Basic Skills test (later changed to the Test of Academic Proficiency) was not fair and would adversely impact Teacher Education programs at the Universities. Why test language arts teachers and elementary teachers in Math areas such as analytical geometry and trigonometry to obtain university admission? University passage rates on the state test declined from nearly 90% to 25%. Passage rates for minority students dropped to 10%. A significant number of potentially outstanding teachers were not allowed in the education field because of this unfair test. Some of my best teachers when I was superintendent of Belleville District #118 were those who did not earn straight A's in college. Also, I have not observed a dramatic increase of principal and teacher skill sets due to these restrictive efforts. Now, Boards of Education have dramatically fewer choices in hiring. Their main goal has shifted from employing the highest quality teacher candidates, to attempting merely to fill vacant positions A great deal of damage to education took place in these years. We are thankful that ISBE and the Legislature has ended this unfair entrance test. This is a big start to assisting the teacher and administrator shortage.
- We said the decrease in the number of education candidates would force Universities to increase tuition. This happened. The results in increased university tuition costs are staggering. Increased tuition also has limited many outstanding economically challenged and disadvantaged students from applying to universities. This was verified by some of the initial research Dr. Patrick Rice and I performed in 2015. We are still doing research seven years later and the number of students going into education is not good. The most recent observation is the number of middle school teaching certificates being issued in Illinois is going down because of the change in licensure requirements. The new middle school licensure requirements need to be changed. Note: This seven-year research shows the teacher shortage did not occur simply because of the Pandemic.
- We stated that more strict certification requirements would lead to a teacher shortage which would eventually lead to either no certification requirements or declining standards. In the recent Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) November/December Journal, authors Hans Andrews and William Marzano stated that quick fixes, like bringing back retired teachers (now in legislation), increasing current teacher workloads, bringing in foreign teachers (occurring in Arizona), and using paraprofessionals in licensed teacher positions, are already being discussed.
https://user-39430906818.cld.bz/LM-april-2021-final-hi I have included the article as it includes a discussion about possible alternatives to assist in slowing down the rapid decline in the number of teachers either staying or entering the profession. Current efforts at the legislative level are not going to be effective at reversing this trend. Teaching scholarships to enhance minority and financially challenged students and the overall pool of candidates, Growing Your Own programs, salary bonuses in subjects where there is a dire need of teachers, focused training programs, lowering the current retirement age of 67, etc. are achievable and worthy of discourse by decision-makers. Not included in the article are suggestions made in the latest Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) Teacher Shortage Survey titled, “Superintendents’ Perceptions of the Teacher Shortage” can be found at https://iarss.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Persistent_Educator.pdf.
I might add other suggestions such as modifying the Danielson Teacher Evaluation Program as too much time is being taken away from the students, adding more needed social and emotional support, and finding additional funding to make teacher salaries more competitive. Teachers and administrators need specific and succinct rules from ISBE, the legislature, and the Governor to keep from being caught in the middle of Covid turmoil. Increasing retired teacher workdays, now at the legislative level, is a nice effort but will not even come close in helping to end the current teacher shortage crisis.
Now is the time for immediate and real action that helps to significantly reduce or even eliminate the shortage. We know we have the Covid challenge which is a terrible situation. We have to take strong measures to overcome this devastating impact.
I should note that Jason Helfer and Emily Fox, part of the current licensure leadership team at ISBE, have been very receptive to many of these ideas and have assisted my research during the last three years. Thank you for listening to my thoughts. I know I am passionate about this issue as I am in my seventh year researching this topic. I am now in my 50th year in education with experience at all levels P-20. My passion is that I want highly qualified teachers to teach in good work environments. I want my six grandchildren and all students to have the best teachers possible. I want Boards of Education to have choices in their hiring practices. I want all individuals, no matter their race, creed, or economic status to have the opportunity to become a licensed individual in the education field. The bottom line is that we need more action NOW on this topic to solve a problem that is not going away under current conditions.
Dr. Jim Rosborg
McKendree University and Belleville District #118