As the school year gets underway, a national teacher shortage has K-12 districts scrambling and job boards lengthening. The president of the National Education Association called the lack of classroom teachers a “five-alarm crisis.” Some students are returning to full-time in-person learning only to find their instructors teaching through screens, often from hundreds of miles away. Many teachers are overburdened by large classes, and in some cases, they are teaching without a degree. Some districts will start the school year with a four-day week to accommodate a lack of staff.The flow of new teachers through the pipeline has slowed to a trickle, in part due to years of declining enrollment in education programs. Now higher education institutions are looking for ways to reverse what has become an alarming national trend.
Between 2008 and 2019, the number of students completing traditional teacher education programs in the U.S. dropped by more than a third, according to a 2022 report by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. The report found that the steepest declines were in degree programs in areas with the greatest need for instructors, such as bilingual education, science, math and special education.
Jacqueline King, an AACTE research, policy and advocacy consultant and co-author of the report, said teacher shortages and enrollment declines at teaching programs are “certainly correlated.” Both are closely linked to the devaluation of teaching as a profession, she added, epitomized by decades of stagnant pay, onerous workloads and political demonization.
“The wages of teachers have been absolutely flat, and the gap between them and other college-educated workers has grown,” she said. “That has contributed, over a long period of time, to declining interest in teaching as a field, both in entering degree programs and in employment.”
In some states, the enrollment drop-off for traditional teacher programs has been far steeper than the national average of 35 percent. A 2019 repor …