Teacher shortages are nothing new. While the issue has become a hot topic in the last few years in California, the shortage has been affecting states across the country for a long time. Even filling subbing positions has become difficult for many districts, as less and less people are attracted to the profession. According to the Washington Post, the problem has grown in recent years due to a series of hits to the profession: “Low morale over low pay, unfair evaluation methods, assaults on due-process rights, high-stakes testing requirements, insufficient resources,” are just a few of the factors listed.
In a report released in 2016 by the non-profit Learning Policy Institute, a 35% reduction in the amount of people enrolling into a teacher prep programs displayed a disheartening trend. NBC4 in Washington also shed light on the substitute shortage, revealing the toll it has taken on full-time teachers and administrators, who have had to give up planning periods and meetings to pitch in and fill in for classrooms without available substitute teachers.
In light of this national issue, many districts have had to get creative with their recruitment approach. One district leading creative efforts is in Southeast Los Angeles, Lynwood Unified. Lynwood Unified School District had been dealing with a substitute shortage for years and recognized that the sub rate pay was far below that of neighboring communities. In an attempt to position themselves as a competitive district, the pay was raised to be above the average, slowly showing results as more applicants rolled in for unfilled substitute roles. Additionally, in an attempt to recruit more teachers and substitutes that felt connected to the district’s mission, Human Resources began doing outreach at alumni events, with the goal of recruiting alumni who were also aspiring educators to join the district and serve as substitutes while completing their teacher programs. Since many alumni demonstrated an interest in coming back to their community to mentor students who are now in the same classes they once were in, Human Resources made it a priority to continue recruiting alumni as a way of creating a short list of future full-time teachers. This strategy has already shown dividends as a more attractive sub rate pay and personalized recruitment strategy have paid off.
Additionally, to ensure the district positions itself in a manner that inspires recent graduates to come back to teach the future generations, the School Board has also started a new tradition of providing all graduating seniors a letter of recommendation along with their high school diploma, encouraging any student that aspires to be a teacher to one day come back and allow the letter to serve as one of their letters of recommendation. Through this effort, Lynwood hopes to plant the seed in students that they can serve as role models and mentors to future generations as they share the same backgrounds and thus have the opportunity for greater impact.
While Lynwood’s proactive approach is a combination of multiple strategies working simultaneously to avoid a teacher shortage for their district, it recognizes the need to continue working arduously to ensure the teaching profession is one that attracts future leaders on its own merit. As data continues to roll out, it is urgent and necessary for districts to take a strategic approach to battling teacher and substitute shortages. Perhaps a first step can be to create more opportunities for intentional recruitment, so that one day every district can count on their own line of eager educators, excited to serve their own communities.
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