Teachers are increasingly leaving their careers in the U.S. and in Utah. This, coupled with a decline in the number of college students studying to become teachers, is leading to teacher shortages. Utah schools are particularly vulnerable to teacher shortages now, because the student population is growing rapidly and will continue to do so through the year 2015.
Increasing teacher attrition places our education system at risk for lower teacher quality, greater inequity for students, and increased inefficiency. Utah Foundation analyzed four public policy solutions that are prominent in discussions about reducing teacher attrition.
We recommend focusing on improving mentoring programs for new teachers, coupled with targeted pay increases for teachers in shortage subjects or locations or those with skills or training that would provide higher pay in other careers. Higher salaries for all teachers would also be helpful to induce more teachers to stay in the profession or to persuade more college students to prepare to become teachers. However, across-the-board salary increases do not provide the same level of benefits as targeting pay increases to those types of teachers experiencing the greatest shortages. Reducing class sizes should wait for a time when the student population is not growing as rapidly or it would worsen the current teacher shortage and reduce the quality of Utah’s teaching corps.
These policy changes should be accompanied by well-designed and adequately funded data collection activities to ensure that reforms are producing the intended outcomes and to provide evidence for adjusting the reforms to ensure their success.
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