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Viewpoints and Findings from the REL Mid-Atlantic

Teacher Shortages: How REL Mid-Atlantic Helps Fill the Gaps
By Jacob Hartog and Michelle Lee

Teacher Shortages: How REL Mid-Atlantic Helps Fill the Gaps

Across the mid-Atlantic region and throughout the United States, school districts cannot hire enough teachers to fill all open positions. In the 2017–2018 school year, 48 states reported teacher shortages in math, 46 in special education, and 43 in science. Teacher shortages in bilingual and English as a Second Language education affected 31 states. At the same time, fewer aspiring educators are enrolling in teacher preparation programs, and the imperative to increase the diversity of the teaching workforce puts added pressure on the pipeline.

States and districts throughout the mid-Atlantic region are developing ways to expand the pipeline of people entering the teaching profession to address the growing teacher shortages and increase diversity. One example of such an initiative is teacher residencies, in which prospective teachers work in a classroom alongside the teacher of record while going to school to obtain their teaching degree. Other examples are programs offered through collaborations between a district and a teacher preparation program at a local college.

A recent REL Mid-Atlantic webinar highlighted four examples of innovative partnerships. Stakeholders in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania discussed their program’s approaches, experiences, and lessons learned:

  • Relay Graduate School of Education’s Teaching Residency Program. Relay works together with four local education agencies in Delaware to help novice educators pursue certification. This two-year program includes an apprentice year, a master’s degree, and recommendation for a Delaware Standard Certificate, which is a credential that specifies which subjects a teacher can teach.
  • Prince George’s County Public Schools’ University Partners Initiative. This large and diverse school district in Maryland collaborates with local colleges and universities to improve teacher retention, build principal leadership skills, and guide young people from the district and at the universities into the teaching profession. Efforts focus on ongoing in-service teacher development, because teachers who struggle in the classroom are more likely to exit the profession. The initiative also prepares students in the district’s high schools for careers in education.
  • Wilmington University’s Paraeducator to Special Education Teacher Alternative Route to Certification. The university’s College of Education works together with local school districts and charter schools to offer a master’s degree in special education. The program, which engages classroom instructional paraeducators (such as teachers’ aides) who are already working in schools and may be interested in becoming teachers, grew out of a need to address educator shortages and recruit teachers of color. It also provides personalized professional growth plans for the teachers and paraeducators in the program.
  • School District of Philadelphia’s Teacher Residency Program. In the 2017–2018 school year, the district piloted a teacher residency program to anchor the redesign of its teacher pipeline. The goal was to strengthen the pipeline for hard-to-fill content areas and support hiring at schools with the greatest need. The program offers enhanced professional development and structures to support new teachers, including an assigned residency coordinator and experienced mentor teachers. Although still growing, the program has succeeded in attracting educators of color, many of whom were already working in Philadelphia schools in other roles.

Working through our research alliance on training and supporting excellent educators, REL Mid-Atlantic looks forward to supporting these partnerships to promote a diverse and effective teaching workforce.