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ISU Tries To Move The Needle On Teacher Shortage

Illinois State University
Illinois State University alum Blake Slutz '15 works with his students at LaSalle-Peru High School.

Most of the national teacher shortage comes because teachers are getting out of the profession.

That's according to Nancy Latham, an early childhood education professor at Illinois State University and its representative to the State Board of Education.
Teaching candidate enrollment nationwide was about 691,000 in 2009. It dropped to 451,000 in 2014. That's a 35 percent drop, according to a study called Teacher Supply: The Coming Crisis in Teaching.

Maureen Smith, director of recruitment and enrollment in the College of Education at ISU, said there are several reasons for the teacher shortage:

  • Declining number of high school graduates.
  • People afraid to go into the profession because of the state pension issue and other uncertainties.
  • Changing family dynamics and teachers having to take up more of a social worker role.

Smith said it's clear nationwide and at ISU in enrollment trends.
Latham said one of the best ways to reduce attrition is through strong support and professional development. About half of the attrition is because of job dissatisfaction. People leaving education tends not to be pay related.
"And I think it's partly because schools just don't have the money they may have had at one time. There is a huge differential in induction and mentoring programs in districts. Some districts, you are assigned a coach the minute you get there and you have all these benefits and this incredible program, and these other districts have absolutely nothing," said Latham.

The Learning Policy Institute estimated the national teacher shortage at 60,000 this year. There were 2,000 vacancies in Illinois as the school year began, according to job listing sites. Latham said more than a quarter of the Illinois vacancies were in Chicago and collar counties.

Some studies put 95 percent of the estimated shortage down to teacher attrition.

And Deb Garrahy, the director of the Cecilia J. Lauby Teacher Education Center at ISU, said one way to move the needle on that particular statistic is to make sure college students know what they are getting into.

"So before they ever get into a student teaching site they have to have at least a minimum of 100 hours out in a school setting, agency setting, observing teaching and assisting, and 50 of those hours must be in a diverse setting," said Garrahy.

ISU's College of Education data show its retention rate in the profession is beginning to climb compared to other states, perhaps because of that approach. Garrahy, Latham, and Smith also praise ISU's practice of promoting full-year student teaching, something most other states have not fully embraced.

Shortages are particularly acute in special education, science, engineering, and math, rural areas, and districts with high poverty levels and or minority populations.

You can also listen to GLT's full interview with the College of Education experts:

Listen to WGLT's Charlie Schlenker interview three ISU College of Education leaders about the teacher shortage.

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WGLT News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio.