There is no single path to address our teacher shortage

As it becomes increasingly urgent to prepare more teachers, as reported in the November 7 article “Virginia report shows more teachers leaving the workforce than entering it,” Virginia’s colleges and universities can play a critical role in building the teacher workforce pipeline for future generations.

At James Madison University’s College of Education, responding to the enormous need for qualified teachers, working in collaboration with Virginia’s Community Colleges and local K-12 school divisions across the state, we have done a lot of work with a number of new initiatives combating the teacher shortage crisis.

Graduate-degree licensure programs, like JMU’s three-semester secondary education post-baccalaureate program, provide a flexible pathway into the teaching profession that suits the unique needs of today’s career professionals and adult learners. Increasing the flexibility and reducing the time it takes can make it easier for people who want to become teachers, do so. This program allows them to complete coursework at an accelerated pace or around a work schedule as they work towards a degree.

People are also reading…

“Grow Your Own” initiatives, a nationally recognized teacher recruitment and retention strategy, like the one recently established at JMU with the Virginia Community College System and $4.2M in state support, create a no-cost pathway with academic and professional development support programs for Eligible high school students and teacher assistants to become licensed teaching professionals in their hometown school districts after graduation. Grow Your Own programs also aid in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion, by creating a pathway to increase access to quality teacher education, especially in disadvantaged communities.

In addition to teacher recruitment initiatives, reducing attrition among educators, particularly during the first five years in a teacher’s career, is critically important for addressing teacher shortages.

The Virginia New Teacher Support Program, working in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia State University, and 43 local school divisions across the Commonwealth, serves as a support program for early-career teachers from areas that are traditionally challenged with teacher retention. The program aims to help keep educators in the field once they are fully trained and has provided high-impact coaching and professional development growth for more than 1,000 early-career teachers across the state since getting its start in 2020.

The Virginia Principal Support Program, working in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, works to intentionally form a bridge of communication connecting university researchers and school leadership practitioners in developing customized learning experiences that support early-career school principals. The program aims to strengthen principal leadership effectiveness and reduce teacher attrition in Virginia’s classrooms. Over 60 individuals from across the state participated in the successful first-year pilot program in 2021.

To ensure a high-quality education for Virginia’s students in the coming years, we need to examine what can be done to increase the number of people pursuing careers as educators.

There is no simple answer or one-size-fits-all magic bullet to tackle teacher shortages. But by offering creative new approaches with innovative solutions, higher education can be a part of the solution in strengthening Virginia’s teacher workforce pipeline.

Dr. Mark L’Esperance is dean of the College of Education at James Madison University. Reach him at [email protected]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: