Teacher Shortage in the U.S: Literature Review

Review of the Teacher Shortage in General

The shortage of teachers in primary and secondary schools has become a common occurrence worldwide, although maintaining a high-quality education system is an inspiration for many countries, in particular for America (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, & Carver-Thomas, 2016). Notably, there exists a strong relationship between students’ educational achievements and such teachers’ quality variables as experience, education, and abilities. Teachers are the core of the education workforce, playing a critical role in developing students’ moral values, maintaining discipline, molding responsible social behaviors, and providing instructions. Teacher shortage is achieved when the number of teachers needed is subtracted from those available, and the negative difference becomes the teacher shortage (Sutcher et al., 2016).

Although NCES reports indicate that the number of teacher hiring will increase by 29% by 2022 and by 12% in elementary and high schools, it also projects a decrease in teacher-student ratio despite the increase in enrollment (Tran, Smith, & Fox, 2018). According to Tran et al. (2018), the recession will leave students opting for careers with higher pay, better employment, and work in related fields. Moreover, weak economies drive graduating students away from teaching to more profitable careers (Tran et al., 2018). Nonetheless, most schools have registered an increase in the number of their staff by 40% since 2012 (Sutcher et al., 2016). Some of the barriers still acting as a hindrance to a full recovery include state policies and a teacher shortage confined in specific subjects. Most states are also experiencing difficulties in transferring teachers’ licensing credentials, which has made some of them quit the profession (Sutcher et al., 2016). Another reason behind the shortage is the overproduction in low-demand subjects and overstaffing in high-demand subjects such as in science and mathematics. The places most affected were rural schools, inner-city, and low-income areas. As a result, states advocate for such financial incentives as loan forgiveness, teacher leadership, mentorship programs, and elevating the teaching profession through seminars (Tran et al., 2018).

However, this is not the case in some regions requiring specific positions to be staffed with teachers from individual heritages or locations, which has led to inconsistency in the number of teachers eligible for some subjects (Ingersoll, 2012; Watlington, Shockley, Guglielmino, & Felsher, 2010). For example, teachers qualified for arts, national languages and social studies are always available, but the science, special education, math, and international language teachers are difficult to find. At the grade level, the Early Childhood Education teachers and those of elementary level are usually easy to find compared to the high-school level teachers (Ingersoll & May, 2011).

From a geographical perspective, the states in the southwest, south, and west of the country face more difficulties in assembling teachers of all types than states of Northeast and Midwest part of the country, while countrywide, schools in the suburbs become staffed faster than the urban and rural ones. Since 1960, the average teacher’s scholastic aptitude has fallen drastically across all regions and subjects due to the lack of coordination in the Teacher Labor Market, where teachers’ certification programs are abundant in some parts of the country while being under-produced in other regions. This situation has led to such scenarios when a teacher in one district is struggling to find a position; yet, another district is struggling to find the same type of teachers (Beesley, Atwill, Blair, & Barley, 2010).

Statistics Regarding Shortage in America

According to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), since 1985, there has been a continuous growth in teachers’ production, and it is predicted that there is a likelihood of more hires of 29% by 2022 (Aragon, 2016). The number is projected to increase by 12%, particularly in secondary and elementary schools. NCES also confirmed that most US public schools have qualified and experienced teachers. At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, 94% of the students were taught by certified teachers according to statistics developed by NCES from School and Staffing Survey (SASS) (Aragon, 2016).

NCES statistics further indicate that 80% of the students obtain instructions from teachers with five years’ experience, 23% are taught by those with 6-10 years’ experience, 20% of the students by teachers with 11-15 years’ experience, 23% of the students by teachers with 16-25years experience, and 14% of the students by teachers of 26 and above years (Aragon, 2016). In the year 2015, 92% of 4th graders and 90% of 8th graders were taught math by teachers who were state-certified, a percentage higher than that of 2013. The percentage of the fourth graders taught by teachers with more than 5years of experience was 76%, while those of 8th grade was 75% (Aragon, 2016).

Retention Issues Specific to Rural Areas

The recruitment and retention of teachers in district schools based in the rural setting have been deemed problematic compared to those of the urban and suburban areas (Dupriez, Delvaux, & Lothaire, 2016). There exist multiple and interdependent drivers that cause an imbalance between the supply and demand of teachers. While some parts of the U.S. are facing a surplus of teachers, other parts can hardly recruit or retain any. This implies that the rural communities within where the schools are found are characterized by their small sizes, sparse settlement, economies relying on agricultural industries, long distances from population concentration, and narrowness of choice, for example, in shops and medical services, aging population, and old trends (Sutcher et al., 2016). These schools are marked by the small sizes of their classes, low numbers of certified teachers, low teacher-turnover, hiring difficulties, and low compensations (Dupriez et al., 2016). Some teachers, however, have reported being satisfied with the rural environment, its serenity and beauty, and they consider the students in the rural schools being of high discipline than those of the urban ones (Dupriez et al., 2016). The students, on the other hand, usually have low English skills, special needs, poor performances, and they rarely enroll in colleges (Dupriez et al., 2016).

According to Tran et al. (2018), most teachers choose not to relocate to certain places despite having learners that register low performance because they are confident in their ability to handle students struggling academically. They have a desire to teach locally, while others are led by openness to teaching in places with high turnover and a sense of public service. The key barriers are lack of preparation programs for the rural environment and support from the administration, underpayment, and being undervalued (Tran et al., 2018). In addition, principals and other headteachers fail to support teachers in school, as teachers reported that the support from the administration is key to making work more comfortable, connecting with students, boosting their self- confidence and making them feel like they are being heard. They also highlighted the need for incentives and bonuses, appreciation from the society, and adequate access to resources (Tran et al., 2018).

Additionally, communities geographically isolated find it hard to attract teachers, while those located on the outskirts and major towns find it hard to retain their teachers (Caulder, 2017). Furthermore, studies reveal that reasons for moving out include climate changes, services (medical and shopping), families, geographical isolation, and the actual distance from the larger communities (Watt, Richardson, & Wilkins, 2014). Teachers who have left such areas testified that they only moved to rural areas because they found it appropriate to start their careers from there, but they soon opted for more prominent and higher-paid positions in the suburbs (Watt et al., 2014). Therefore, this has helped analysts to conclude that young people are not drawn to the rural areas, and any other person who finds it comfortable working in this environment was born in a small community, or they have chosen to be committed to it (Watt et al., 2014).

Lastly, the poor work conditions and lack of administration support has contributed to the teacher shortage (Sutcher et al., 2016). The primary reasons thereof include the paucity of professional communities, essential resources and materials, and discipline issues, which have been found to impair learning in the large class size and physical conditions (Watt et al., 2014). Teachers in these areas often instruct out of the field (life skills and discipline) due to the shortage of teachers, which contributes to considerable workloads in addition to lower pay (Watt et al., 2014). Principles, on the other hand, have also played a role, especially in cases where they put too much pressure on new teachers, accusing them of the lack of organization and planning skills while they provide them little or no support regarding the same (Watt et al., 2014).

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Teacher Perseverance

Caulder (2017) argues that teachers in district schools are not appreciated. Furthermore, most individuals underrate the teaching profession, which is evident in teachers’ salaries and working conditions. As such, both parents and society hold stereotypes about teaching and are prone to questioning its methods and the impact they have on children. Parents and legislators rarely agree with most decisions teachers make to enhance active learning in classes. Rural district schoolteachers have little autonomy; instead, they are forced to follow strict guidelines aligned with the curriculum.

Consequently, students also suffer when neither growth and development nor remedial instructions for content mastery are rewarded, as such actions leave teachers without a choice. In addition, teachers in rural districts face inconsistency in monetary support and funding compared to those of high revenue-contributing districts (Caulder, 2017).

Furthermore, the financial abilities of other district schools allow them to create opportunities for their students, which most rural districts students only dream of even at every effort of the administration to keep up (Caulder, 2017). Since rural districts experience financial constraints when hiring new staff, they opt to pay extra to the existing teachers to have them teach more classes than required, which leaves them overwhelmed and having little practical instructions to offer their students (Caulder, 2017). Thus, rural teachers deserve more recognition because they hold multiple roles as mentors, sideline supporters, and even coaches, making every interaction they engage in unique (Sutcher et al., 2016).

In summary, teachers persevere because they are afraid that students will receive instructions from others who are not trained or qualified. Moreover, they face unsupportive parents who do not believe in creativity and perceive learning only as a teacher-to-student interaction. Finally, teachers emotionally and mentally contribute to the learning process, although they are rarely appreciated therefor. Nevertheless, they strongly aspire to gain the love of their students and are stirred by the passion for what they do (Caulder, 2017).

The Solution to South Carolina

South Carolina’s rural teacher issues could be solved by resource mobilization and community development. Most individuals, teachers, and graduates abandon rural communities due to the lack of jobs and other opportunities to grow (Tran et al., 2018). Rural communities, therefore, need to build up their economies to attract people. For instance, some schools fail to receive funding because their administrators are not knowledgeable about grant opportunities; thus, they require training on the same to improve resource awareness. This could be achieved through higher education and community colleges (Moore, 2012). They both could act as intermediaries between stakeholders, government agencies, and communities to solve problems of funds. Moreover, teacher’s salary is a compressing issue to rural teacher employment. For example, an average teacher receives 33,200 dollars while a suburban teacher receives 40,500 dollars, and all are subjected to deductions of 18.7% (Moore, 2012). The lower salary has affected the teaching profession respectability, hence the feeling of being undervalued in teachers. Therefore, to motivate them, salary deductions should be addressed while salaries and bonuses should be increased (Tran et al., 2018).

Additionally, training and development for teachers could boost their self-efficacy and confidence (Watlington et al., 2010). Hence, there should be principles-teacher programs, which would prepare them for the environment accompanied by a curriculum designed for rural schools in areas experiencing teacher shortage (Watlington et al., 2010). Furthermore, in rural teaching experiences, such connections lead to more learning of the communities, immersing into them, and engaging with them. Teachers also complained of a lack of support from the administration (Watlington et al., 2010). Since rural teachers need favorable working conditions, headteachers, education officers, and other community leaders should be trained on how to relate and support their teachers. Lastly, such rural working advantages as a healthy family environment and smaller class sizes to instruct should be highlighted, and opportunities to support or impact the lives of their students should be provided as well (Tran et al., 2018).



Aragon, S. (2016). Teacher shortages: What we know. Teacher shortage series. Denver. CL: Education Commission of the States.

Beesley, A. D., Atwill, K., Blair, P., & Barley, Z. A. (2010). Strategies for recruitment and retention of secondary teachers in central US rural schools. Rural Educator, 31(2).

Caulder, R. (2017). I am the teacher South Carolina wants to retain, and I am barely hanging on. The State. Retrieved from https://www.thestate.com/opinion/op-ed/article186490283.html

Dupriez, V., Delvaux, B., & Lothaire, S. (2016). Teacher shortage and attrition: Why do they leave? British Educational Research Journal, 42(1), 21-39.

Ingersoll, R. M. (2012). Beginning teacher induction what the data tell us. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(8), 47-51.

Ingersoll, R. M., & May, H. (2011). Recruitment, retention and the minority teacher shortage. Philadelphia, PA: CRPE Research Report.

Moore, C. M. (2012). The role of the school environment in teacher dissatisfaction among US public school teachers. Sage Open, 2(1).

Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the US. Washington, DC: Learning Policy Institute.

Tran, H., Smith, D. A., & Fox, E. C. (2018). Perspectives of potential and current teachers for rural teacher recruitment and retention. Center for Innovation in Higher Education Report. Retrieved from www. usccihe. org/s/SC-Teacher-Perspectives-on-RRI-Final-Draft-rev2. pdf.

Watlington, E., Shockley, R., Guglielmino, P., & Felsher, R. (2010). The high cost of leaving: An analysis of the cost of teacher turnover. Journal of Education Finance, 36(1), 22-37.

Watt, H. M., Richardson, P. W., & Wilkins, K. (2014). Profiles of professional engagement and career development aspirations among USA preservice teachers. International Journal of Educational Research, 65, 23-40.