How to tackle teacher vacancies: 3 big topics and dozens of tools

'School leaders can’t wait around. Principals need solutions they can start implementing this academic year,' experts say

So, teacher vacancies and shortages may not be hitting every district and every subject with the same severity. It’s become clear that schools with higher-poverty rates and special education, math and science classrooms—which saw shortages prior to the pandemic—continue to experience the deepest vacancies.

And just because a district has an adequate number of teachers, questions of their effectiveness and areas of expertise remain, say the authors of “Creativity From Necessity,” a new Bellwether analysis that offers leaders a range of strategies and tools for tackling shortages of both quantity and quality.

“Solving persistent staff shortages in schools will require long-term investments, systemic changes and significant shifts in federal- and state-level policy,” the authors write. “We also know that school leaders can’t wait around. Principals need solutions they can start implementing this academic year, next year and in the future.”

Toolkits for tackling teacher vacancies

The think tank’s toolkit, which researchers describe as a mix of well-tested talent management practices and innovative ideas, covers three categories— protecting teacher time, meeting teachers’ needs and filling staffing gaps—and shares ideas from dozens of experts and district leaders, Bellwether says. In each area, the report links to a range of strategies for implementing targeted solutions, including:

  • Finding time for collaborative planning—and protecting it.
  • Embedding collaborative planning time into the school day.
  • Identifying workload issues by “unlocking time” with alternatives to the traditional bell schedule.
  • Conducting empathy interviews that help leaders understand the perspectives of teachers and staff who feel that they aren’t often asked for their opinions.
  • Retention-oriented “stay conversations” will inform leaders what individual teachers need to remain in their jobs.
  • Mentoring and induction improve the effectiveness and retention of novice teachers.
  • Developing grow-your-own teacher programs that fit each school community’s needs and can diversify a district’s staff.
  • Flexible and engaging onboarding procedures, including using remote instruction, can provide a more welcoming environment for new teachers.
  • Creating sustainable and impactful tutoring programs both within the district and with community partners.

For more guidance on these and other activities, dive deeper into each of these strategies here.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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