Education Week, July 20, 2022, by Irene Chen and Stephanie Banchero
The last few years have taken a toll on our teachers. The COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing cultural divisions, and the Uvalde, Texas, massacre all weigh heavily. Morale is at an all-time low. Now is the time to rethink the teaching profession.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some districts are struggling to find teachers. According to federal data collected in January, 44 percent of public schools reported at least one teaching vacancy, and 61 percent identified the pandemic as a cause. Rural and urban districts are having a particularly tough time, especially finding special education and bilingual teachers. Students of color and those from underserved communities are more likely to have uncertified or inexperienced teachers.
These shortages are playing out at the exact moment the nation most needs excellent educators. Students’ math and reading scores have dropped. They’re suffering from increased anxiety and depression. In one April survey conducted by The New York Times, at least three-quarters of counselors said students are showing signs of anxiety or depression, having trouble regulating emotions, or finding it difficult to solve conflict with friends.
Let’s address this crisis by reenvisioning the traditional school staffing model, which has not changed in generations. We need innovative, differentiated staffing that creatively utilizes educators and plays to their strengths. This means schools must deploy adults to work collaboratively in response to the needs of individual students, rather than asking one teacher to meet the needs of all students in one classroom. This approach can address children’s specific skills gaps, while also diversifying the workforce, retaining the most effective teachers, and extending great teaching.
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