How the Teacher Shortage Will Affect Your Kids—and What You Can Do - (2024)

If you are concerned about your child getting a quality education—and if you’re a person who reads the news at all—you’ve probably heard about what we’ll call the Great American Teacher Shortage. By one estimate, there are at least 36,000 vacant teacher positions and another 163,000+ roles currently being held by under-qualified professionals.

What can you do about it? At a high level, be proactive about seeking intervention and support, work with educators when possible, and learn about alternative educational options if you need them.

For more information on how this is affecting real students and what you should be thinking about as a parent, we spoke to Kris Bowman, Executive Director of the Ramsey Educational Development Institute (REDI). REDI provides early intervention services in Pennsylvania. The earliest years of our lives are crucial to later development and academic performance, so we wanted to discuss how these shortages are affecting the youngest among us.

Bowman explained how preschoolers are being impacted by the staffing shortage, and gave us suggestions that apply to children across the age spectrum.

The State of Teacher Shortages in Early Childhood Education

“The whole world is in a workforce crisis, and for early childhood education and early intervention, it is bad out there,” Bowman says. “Programs are not running at full capacity. They can’t open all the classrooms because they don’t have teachers. Kids are on waiting lists to get in but there are no teachers to staff those classrooms.”

When childcare centers do hire more staffers, she says, it’s usually because they are poaching from other facilities, causing shortages elsewhere. There is not much capacity being added into the system itself.

Bowman believes that the situation for early childhood education is actually worse than in grade school. “All of the issues that have been amplified by the pandemic are worse in early childhood education,” she says.

How the Teacher Shortage Is Affecting Children

A lack of teachers means that classrooms are under constant pressure—including stressed-out teachers in those classrooms. “We know from the literature that as teachers’ stress goes up, suspensions and expulsions go up,” Bowman says. Believe it or not, plenty of toddlers and even babies face suspension and expulsion from childcare centers.

“It’s a huge problem that’s not on a lot of people’s radars,” she says. It’s hard enough to ask teachers to differentiate instruction for kids at all levels, plan a 12- to 15-hour day, and work long hours for little pay. The more thinly teachers are spread, the less bandwidth they have to deal with challenging students and situations. “Teacher stress and depression are up, and suspensions and exclusionary practices follow suit.”

Preschoolers are actually subject to what Bowman calls “exclusionary practices” at far greater rates than school-age kids. Although childcare centers may not call it a suspension or expulsion, examples include:

  • Out-of-school suspension: “Your child is having a terrible day. He won’t stop crying! Please come and pick him up and we can try again tomorrow.”
  • In-school suspension: “She keeps running out of the room during circle time. I’m worried about her safety, so we’ll need her to sit in the office for 20 minutes every day during circle time from now on.”
  • Expulsion: “Your child isn’t a good fit for our institution. Maybe they’re not ready for school yet, or maybe another program is a better fit.”

Although behavioral issues do need to be addressed, Bowman points out that some of this is typical child behavior. At 18 months, many kids will bite and cry, for example. “When systems and teachers are better supported, kids are taught to express themselves in a different way. But when teacher stress is so high, there’s no bandwidth to do it and families are asked to leave programs.”

Essentially, the greatest impact on children and families is the lack of childcare and educational opportunities. Families with the financial means can find another program if they are expelled from one, but waiting lists due to teacher shortages can delay a school transition. And, of course, families with lesser means are doubly impacted because even if they get on a waiting list elsewhere, it’s unclear if they could afford the alternatives.

In the meantime, many parents have little choice but to stick kids in front of screens because they lack childcare. Bowman says, “Even if there was capacity for kids to shuffle from program to program, kids need routine, consistency. That’s how they learn how to regulate.”

How Parents Can Make Sure Their Kids Have the Right Learning Opportunities

Set Them Up for Academic and Socioemotional Success

Parents can reclaim control by being alert to their own children’s developmental milestones. There are the CDC milestones you’ve probably seen at the doctor’s office, which Bowman says are important although sometimes unduly stressful.

“They aren’t wrong, but they create a lot of panic in families because it’s a range. They say kids should take their first step around a year but the range is eight to 18 months. That could cause parents to panic.”

Bowman advises parents to look out for key socioemotional abilities that are the building blocks of formal “skills.” She suggests paying attention to:

  1. Eye contact
  2. Engagement with other people
  3. Attention span
  4. Social connection

Especially for kids under age five, academics start with social and emotional skills. “Words don’t just come,” Bowman says. “You get them from interacting with your environment. Engagement, attachment, attention. Those things lead us to words, sounds, sentences, using hands to play, building towers, interacting with peers, all of that.” The ability to regulate our own emotions, and a robust attention span, enables us to engage with the world in ways that facilitate learning.

If you’re feeling any doubts about your child’s development, she strongly recommends scheduling an early intervention assessment sooner than later. All 50 states have early intervention programs, she says, “and the first few years of life are time you’ll never get back.”

In the first few years of life, young children form 1 million neural connections per second. So even delaying a few months can amount to tens of billions of neural connections. If you have any hesitation at all, don’t wait. She says: “If the answer is, ‘Everything looks great and here’s what to look for over the next six months or a year,’ then great. That’s still time well spent.”

Try to Work With the Educators to Find Solutions

If you’re facing suspension or expulsion because of your child’s behaviors or limitations, Bowman recommends taking an active role. Not just pushing back on administrators but trying to act like you’re on the same team (even if you’re feeling upset about the situation). “It’s much harder for a program to kick a child out when they have an engaged parent,” she says.

She recommends asking questions about what’s happening, what you can do at home, and how you and the teachers can work together to address the issues. “If the program sees you trying to work with them and trying to carry those lessons over at home and be part of the solution, it is less likely that the exclusionary practices will happen.”

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you


Explore Tutoring and Enrichment Activities—Only if You Want to

If you feel like your kid needs more support or enrichment and you have the resources to give that to them, follow whatever feels right for your child. “If you have the opportunity to do that, wonderful,” Bowman says. “The downside could be: Don’t overschedule your child, still let them be a child, and not every minute needs enrichment activities. Enrichment can be as simple as playing kickball outside.”

Pursue Other Paths

When staring down the barrel of large class sizes and a lack of individualized attention, some parents may consider sending their children to private rather than public school, or pursuing a more drastic shift such as homeschooling.

Bowman is not confident that private education will always be the answer to teacher shortages. Teacher support (e.g., wages and benefits) makes a big impact. “Sometimes private institutions have an edge. Sometimes they are a faith-based organization located in a house of worship, and they may not have more resources than the publicly licensed place a block down.”

At the grade school level, private school teachers generally make less than public school teachers. As a result, they may be facing many of the same challenges as any other teachers in a competitive labor market. Private schools may have more lenient licensure requirements, which might enable additional employees to work at a private school because there are fewer hurdles to clear. (That said, you may have your own feelings about more lax requirements.) Speak to administrators to find out what they are seeing on the ground and weigh your options accordingly.

Homeschooling will need to be a personal decision based on your family’s individual situation. If your children aren’t getting the level of personal attention at school that you’d like, do you feel confident that you could do better on your own? Can you or your spouse tailor your work around having your kids at home? Do you have the expertise or interest in being their primary educators? Do you know other homeschooling families in your community?

Obviously, deciding to homeschool your children is a big decision, and one you probably shouldn’t undertake reactively unless you’re prepared for everything it means.

At the end of the day, not every child is suffering the effects of a teacher shortage right now. Plenty are having happy and educational days at school with quality instructors who care about them. If you decide that your child could use an additional boost, follow your gut, weigh your options, and do what feels right for your family.

How the Teacher Shortage Will Affect Your Kids—and What You Can Do - (2024)


How does a teacher shortage affect students? ›

Teacher shortages lead to missed or insufficient learning opportunities. There may be a discontinuity in the delivery of instruction, and key concepts may be overlooked altogether. These occurrences limit the educational opportunities that students can and should receive.

How can we solve the teacher shortage problem? ›

5 Strategies to Tackle Teacher Shortages
  1. Boost teacher pay. Raising educators' salaries is one of the most popular strategies states and school districts have used to ease the staffing shortage. ...
  2. Partner with teacher prep programs. ...
  3. Build bottom-up support. ...
  4. Tap into educators' passion. ...
  5. Treat students well.
Feb 10, 2023

What is the main cause of the teacher shortage? ›

Why are there shortages of teachers? Myriad reasons: low pay and morale, mounting political and academic pressures, health and safety concerns.

What does teacher shortage mean? ›

The Nature of Current Shortages. A shortage is typically defined as the inability to fill vacancies at current wages with individuals qualified to. teach in the fields needed.

How do teachers affect student performance? ›

Compared to any other aspect of schooling, teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement. A well-trained teacher is likely to send more students to college, and can boost a class's lifetime income by $250,000.

How much do teachers affect students performance? ›

A study of roughly 10,000 school districts, which isolated variables affecting student achievement, found increased teacher pay resulted in a small improvement in student performance. The researchers speculated increased pay attracts higher-quality candidates, boosts retention and heightens morale.

What can teachers do to help struggling students? ›

Five principles for supporting struggling learners
  1. Know individual students. Effective teachers know their students. ...
  2. Plan according to the developmental levels of students. ...
  3. Model instruction and follow up with students. ...
  4. Assess students throughout the lesson. ...
  5. Provide consistent one-on-one or small group interventions.
Jan 8, 2020

Why is it important for teachers to be able to problem solve? ›

Need & Importance:

Using effective problem solving techniques will help children avoid conflicts in a school setting and in their day to day lives. It can also strengthen children beginning empathy skills. It can help children learn more positive attributions about other persons' intentions.

How can teachers help their students overcome their learning difficulties? ›

Make learning participative. Encourage peer learning. Break tasks down into smaller steps that will incrementally build into the task objective. Use learners' own words, language, materials and personal context - be clear about activity purpose and how it relates to the skills needs of the learner.

What is a fact about teacher shortage? ›

A majority of districts report shortages of math (58%) and science (57%) teachers. More than one-third of districts report shortages of elementary teachers. 14% of districts report shortages of bilingual teachers, a number likely to increase because of the passage of Proposition 58.

Where are the biggest teacher shortages in the US? ›

Illinois has the lowest number of underqualified teachers at 1.17 positions per 10,000 students while New Hampshire has the highest at 348.79. Notably, New Hampshire has not reported teacher shortage areas to the U.S. Department of Education since the 2019-2020 school year, according to the report.

Why America's teacher shortage is going to get worse? ›

For starters, shortages are occurring because of increased demand on public schools. As of fall 2017, 50.7 million students were attending public elementary and secondary schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2025, that number is expected to expand to 51.4 million.

Why are teachers important? ›

Teachers are the backbone of our democracy – fostering curiosity and creativity, building skillful individuals, and strengthening informed citizens. A great teacher in every classroom is one of the most important resources we can provide students.

Why are so many teachers quitting right now? ›

Our broader research on the Great Attrition shows that workload-related stress and toxic managers caused many people to leave their jobs during and after the pandemic. Across industries, 70 percent of people noted that they define their purpose through their work, which is also true for educators.

Why is teaching so hard right now? ›

Teaching is a valuable and rewarding profession, but it can also be tiring and exhausting. Teaching is arguably more difficult now than it has ever been for a variety of reasons, including learner behavior, fast-changing technology, and poor compensation.

How do teachers affect students mental health? ›

They can educate themselves and others on the symptoms of mental health issues, provide a safe environment, encourage good health, and help students access mental health resources.

What has the biggest impact on student learning? ›

The most thorough research to date on classroom best practice has revealed the number one factor that impacts student learning is engaging teaching. The study reveals that factors like homework, small classroom sizes and a long school day do not have a big influence on students' learning outcomes.

How can teachers motivate students? ›

Positive Outcomes

Give verbal praise for successful progress or accomplishment. Give personal attention to students. Provide informative, helpful feedback when it is immediately useful. Provide motivating feedback (praise) immediately following task performance.

Are teachers responsible for students success? ›

They hold students accountable for their successes and failures and good teachers won't let their talented students get away with not living up to their full potential.

How do teachers expectations affect student learning? ›

Teacher expectations create a reinforcing cycle. Teacher beliefs about students' growth potential shape those teachers' actions, which then, in turn, impacts students' growth, feeding back into teachers' beliefs about students.

How does teacher effectiveness affects student motivation? ›

According to Self-Determination Theory (SDT), teacher motivation affects student motivation indirectly via teaching practices that support the satisfaction of students' basic psychological needs, but studies have not shown evidence of this entire sequence.

What are three things teachers can do to help students? ›

This blog examines six ways teachers can help students be successful throughout the school year.
  • Lead by Example. Even children know that actions speak louder than words. ...
  • Seek to be Restorative. ...
  • Support Inclusion. ...
  • Teach Emotional Self-Regulation.
Mar 17, 2021

How do you motivate a struggling student? ›

Top 5 Strategies for Motivating Students
  1. Promote growth mindset over fixed mindset. ...
  2. Develop meaningful and respectful relationships with your students. ...
  3. Grow a community of learners in your classroom. ...
  4. Establish high expectations and establish clear goals. ...
  5. Be inspirational.
Jun 4, 2018

Why do students need to solve problems? ›

Problem-Solving Skills Build Confidence

They learn to look at challenges from a fresh perspective. Therefore, they take more calculated risks. If students practice problem solving consistently, they can develop greater situational and social awareness. Additionally, they learn to manage time and develop patience.

Why do children need to problem solve? ›

It's an important life skill that they need to develop so that they can make decisions for themselves. Solving problems will help them to be more confident and independent, and stop them from feeling frustrated.

Why is it important for children to problem solve? ›

The development of problem-solving skills is an essential aspect of child development. Learning how to approach and solve problems, both at home and school, can affect the quality of a child's relationships with others. Problem-solving also encourages creativity, which is key to success later on in life.

How can students overcome challenges? ›

Follow this advice to help you overcome the challenges.
  1. Manage your time. Invest in a daily planner and keep one calendar for assignments, exams and family events. ...
  2. Learn study skills. Ask questions and participate in class discussions. ...
  3. Seek academic advising. ...
  4. Manage your finances.

How to help students with learning difficulties in the classroom? ›

How To Help Children With Learning Disabilities In The Classroom
  1. Allow extra time for completing class tasks. ...
  2. Use a tape recorder. ...
  3. Reduce need for writing. ...
  4. Keep classroom chatter to a minimum. ...
  5. Use visual aids and multi-sensory learning techniques. ...
  6. Assign them a 'study buddy'
Jun 11, 2017

What are ways to help children with barriers to learning? ›

Overcoming the barriers to learning
  • Building positive relationships. ...
  • Regular communication between teachers and parents. ...
  • Encourage them to ask for help. ...
  • Set realistic goals and targets throughout the school year. ...
  • Create a safe and engaging environment. ...
  • Deal with attention-seeking and disruptive behaviours.
Mar 11, 2022

What subjects have the most teacher shortages? ›

Data from the U.S. Department of Education for the 2022-2023 school year shows the state has the most shortages in special education, career and technical education, science, art and music, world languages, language arts, English as a second language and health and physical fitness.

What year did the teacher shortage start? ›

Reports of Teacher Shortages: According to recently released federal data, the percentages of schools reporting that they had teaching vacancies and difficult-to-staff positions have declined significantly since 1999-00.

Is teacher shortage not true? ›

A teachers union leader has described it as a five-alarm emergency. News coverage has warned of a crisis in teaching. In reality, there is little evidence to suggest teacher turnover has increased nationwide or educators are leaving in droves. Certainly, many schools have struggled to find enough educators.

Which teachers are most in demand? ›

Which teaching subject is most in demand? While specific needs vary by institution, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are subjects that are always in high demand.

Which state has the most teachers? ›

In the 2019-2020 school year, the state with the most public school teachers was Texas, with 363,195 teachers.

Why is the number of teachers declining? ›

Notably, the research team also isolated eight possible contributing influences on these trends—education funding, teacher compensation, changing labor market opportunities, teacher unionism (restrictions preventing teachers from unionizing as well as changing collective bargaining strategies), barriers to entering the ...

Will teachers always be in demand? ›

There will always be a need for great teachers. Regardless of temporary economic conditions, hiring practices, budget cuts or any other factors that impact the education system, the need for teachers is timeless and universal.

What would happen without teachers? ›

A world without teachers is a world deprived of learning and with a lot less love. Appreciate your children's teachers, and reflect back on the teachers who made a difference for you. It's time to bring our teachers back, not just physically in our schools, but also morally, at the very center of our societies.

How do teachers influence child development? ›

Teachers Act as Role Models

Children learn by example from the people around them, and if they have positive role models early in life, they are more likely to mimic the good behaviors they observe. By holding themselves up to a high behavioral standard, teachers serve as positive influences in their students' lives.

How do teachers make a difference? ›

Educators build students' confidence, inspire creativity, encourage higher education, invite exploration, and encourage competition in events students might not otherwise have thought to do. Students often look to their teachers as mentors because of their experience and knowledge.

How does the teacher shortage affect students? ›

Teacher shortages lead to missed or insufficient learning opportunities. There may be a discontinuity in the delivery of instruction, and key concepts may be overlooked altogether. These occurrences limit the educational opportunities that students can and should receive.

Why teachers are quitting 2023? ›

Clip: 04/10/2023 | 17m 51s | Staffing shortages, burnout, funding cuts, and debates over the curriculum are adding to the pressures on America's educators. In her new book, bestselling author Alexandra Robbins followed three teachers to see how these issues are changing the way they work.

How does teacher burnout affect students? ›

In other words, teacher stress due to burnout is transferred to students as evidenced by their stress cortisol levels, resulting in poorer performance. Another study found that teacher exhaustion contributed to higher levels of cynicism in students, defined as their negative and detached attitudes toward schoolwork.

What is the hardest year of teaching? ›

The first year of teaching is the hardest. While being an educator is never without its struggles, the first year is by far the most challenging — pieced together with idealism, confusion, good intentions, excitement, fear, and expectations.

What is the hardest year of education? ›

While each year of high school will have its own stressors, many will say junior year is the most challenging. Junior year can be the hardest for several reasons, but with the right prep and expectations, high school students can make the hardest year just a little easier.

What is the hardest teaching job to get? ›

Teacher shortages by subject
  • mathematics.
  • science.
  • foreign languages.
  • bilingual education.
  • English language acquisition.
  • special education.
Oct 5, 2021

What are the challenges faced by student teachers? ›

10 Challenges Of Teaching & How To Overcome Them
  • Understanding the different learning challenges amongst students. ...
  • Student family problems & bullying. ...
  • Lack of funding. ...
  • Lack of effective communication. ...
  • Being encouraging and motivating under challenging times. ...
  • Disciplining students. ...
  • Endless paperwork & extended working hours.

What type of areas and schools suffer from teacher shortages? ›

Schools with increased staffing difficulties include central-city schools and low-income schools. central-city and low-income schools. rural schools. teachers in high-minority schools tend to be higher than low-minority schools.

What is the greatest challenge teachers face today? ›

One of the most common and pressing classroom challenges for teachers is the fact that some students are not receiving adequate support outside of the classroom. While teachers can work with students while they're at school, students need support from their parents as well.

What are the 9 challenges our students face in school? ›

Nine challenges students face in school are poverty, homeless families, child abuse and neglect, bullying (including cyber bullying), violence, obesity and eating disorders, sex and pregnancy, suicide, drugs, and dropping out. This article reviews the first two challenges: poverty and homeless families.

Which state has the greatest teacher shortage? ›

Georgia had the highest number of vacancies (3,112) for the 2019-2020 school year. More recently, during the 2021-2022 school year, Florida had the most vacancies with 3,911 positions unfulfilled. That same school year, Mississippi and Alabama had over 3,000 vacancies.

What are two of the subject areas where there are consistently shortages of teachers? ›

Teacher shortages in certain subject areas (like special education or high school math) and certain locales (like rural areas) have been perennial issues for years. School districts have also long been trying to recruit and retain more teachers of color.

Why are teachers leaving the industry? ›

The top three factors causing teachers in the state to consider leaving are burnout (57%), political and ideological attacks (40%), as well as staff shortages and having too many responsibilities (32%).

How real is the teacher shortage? ›

More than three-quarters of U.S. states are experiencing a teacher shortage, highlighting a growing concern among public education and government officials about issues that were exacerbated during three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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