Wisconsin has a massive teacher shortage. Once a vibrant profession, there are now thousands of open or under-filled positions. Unfortunately, the problem is worsening. Not only are teachers leaving the field in droves, but there are also an inadequate number of prospective teachers entering the school of education.
The teacher shortage hurts the children of Wisconsin. Many times, schools are either forced to put untrained or under-trained individuals in front of kids or raise class sizes. These so-called temporary, but seemingly permanent, measures prevent quality instruction, reduce student learning, and increase behavior issues.
To solve the teacher shortage, we need to first value the teachers we have by treating them right. We must also encourage the best and brightest to enter and stay in teaching. We need to make teaching so appealing that the top folks from every field want to become teachers and share their wisdom, knowledge, and expertise with the next generation.
To cultivate high caliber teachers, we must do the following:
1) Level up teacher salaries. Teachers earn roughly 20% less than other careers with the same experience and credentials.
2) Improve classroom conditions. Government mandates, high class sizes, and demands on time reduces productivity and hinders morale.
3) Increase the amount of training needed to become a teacher. We need folks prepared before they are entrusted with our children.
4) Expand teacher residency. Too often we see that one semester is not enough time to properly prepare a teacher for their own classroom.
5) Stipend student teachers. Similar to paid apprenticeships or paid physician residency programs, student teachers should be stipend during teacher residency.
6) Enhance collaboration between principal and teaching staff. Maintaining a shared vision leads to a more robust school environment for teachers and students.
There is also high turn over in school leadership. Principals stay at a school for around four years. Superintendents last roughly the same at the district level. Mobility creates instability and limits long lasting systemic change. The challenges facing school leaders is a constant churn of policies from the federal and state levels. Additionally, the role of school leaders has changed substantially. For many years, they were education specialists & managers. Now leaders have the additional responsibilities of implementing a myriad of ever changing federal/state policies. They also have to navigate a world with numerous special interests groups and budget challenges. To maintain and grow high quality principals and superintendents we must:
1) Return decision making to school leaders. State and federal bureaucrats use one-size-fits-all ideas that do not work for our diverse communities.
2) Remove unfunded mandates. Too often leaders have to squeeze budgets because federal and state officials force blanket mandates on districts.
3) Leaders should have experience in their school level. There is a large difference between how an elementary school and high school are run. Therefore, we must be intentional in matching the principal with a school.
4) Give leaders more autonomy. Leaders who are creative and can tailor their work to the students they serve can increase innovation.
5) Increase the qualifications to become an administrator. The better prepared, the more likely to succeed.
6) Principal and superintendent candidates need more practicum experiences and tutoring. Practice makes perfect.
7) Train and hire only the top teachers to become leaders. Top teachers are masters of their craft. They can build up other teachers.
8) Pay leaders like leaders. Some great teachers overlook becoming a principal because the increased work is not worth the small pay increase.