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Why A Teacher Shortage May Get Worse

Micah Fikes
Micah Fikes on September 28, 2020

Education leaders are preparing for the worst as many districts that are already facing teacher shortages may see the need for educators grow. 

While some districts have returned to in-person learning, others have remained on a hybrid system or fully remote. 

According to a national online survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, more than 75% of teachers who were surveyed said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about resuming in-person teaching due to potential health implications of COVID-19.

The survey, conducted this summer, showed nearly a third of teachers were considering leaving their jobs this school year. Typically, there is only an 8% turnover rate among educators in the teaching profession nationally, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

For several years, Texas school districts have struggled with filling open teaching positions, especially among in-demand areas like Special Education and STEM disciplines. Now, that struggle may be about to get worse. 

Why Districts Are Struggling


As school districts across Texas continue to navigate changing directives, coronavirus concerns are causing many teachers to re-evaluate whether they will continue to stay in the classroom.

Coronavirus Concerns

teacher shortageAmong a range of older workers who have withdrawn from the workforce area due to coronavirus concerns are teachers. Similar to the EdWeek Research Center survey, a National Education Association survey found that nearly 28% of educators who participated in the poll said the pandemic has made them more likely to retire or leave teaching.

Perhaps most startling, however, is that these respondents weren’t only composed of teachers approaching retirement age. Included in those who stated that the pandemic had made them consider leaving teaching were new or young teachers … in fact, one in five who responded this way had less than 10 years of experience.

On the other hand, some educators who are in districts utilizing remote learning are experiencing high levels of stress and frustration as well as students struggle with this platform for learning. This has caused some teachers to consider retiring earlier than expected or to rethink whether they should remain employed in that district.

Substitute Teaching

Another issue districts may be facing in the near future includes substitute teachers. Substitute teaching can be a great way to gain teaching experience and get your foot in the door in a desired school district. Substitutes are often made up of retirees, teachers who want to work part-time or stay-at-home parents who have left the workforce and are easing back in. 

Many school districts have also used substitute teachers to help staff open teaching positions that have yet to be filled. However, pay and benefits for substitute teachers varies significantly from district to district. For many, working as a substitute during a pandemic is not desirable, leaving many districts to scramble for substitutes.

Long-time Problems

Although coronavirus concerns are front and center currently, districts have been struggling with filling open positions for some time.

In Texas, the most in-demand subjects in need of teachers include:

  • Bilingual and English as a Second Language
  • Career Technical Education (CTE)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Special Education

Special education continues to be one of the highest in-demand teaching jobs not only in Texas, but across the United States. In Texas, about 1 of every 8 public school students require special education services, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Yet nationally, the number of special education teachers has dropped by as much as 17% over the past decade, according to an Education Week report.

What This Means For Future Educators


teacher shortageTeacher shortages in Texas have long been an issue districts have struggled with over several years. Even once the coronavirus isn’t as significant a concern as it is currently, school districts will still face teacher shortages until there are enough certified educators to fill open positions. 

If, by the end of this year, school districts find that they have experienced more teacher retirements than what is expected based on annual averages, districts may find themselves in dire situations come next summer. 

If you have been considering entering the field of education, now may be a good time to begin the certification process. Alternative teacher certification programs are a great way to get your teaching certificate without staying in or entering the higher education system.

Alternative teacher certification programs offer several benefits, including:

  • Flexibility in where and when you take your coursework
  • Better course availability, since you may live in one part of the state and take a course being offered online in another part of the state
  • Continuous support, since the best programs offer trainer and in-field advisers
  • An extensive network where you can build relationships with other interns, instructors and school districts

To enroll in an alternative teacher certification program, which should be on the Texas Education Agency list of approved educator preparation programs, you must qualify for admittance by one of two ways:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree in any major from an accredited institution of higher learning
  • Have an associate’s degree or no degree, but have a qualified number of full-time wage-earning experience in the field to be taught

More information about additional requirements and what it takes to become certified to teach can be found in our article, Education And Training Needed To Become A Teacher.

Because of the changing landscape of the education field, testing timelines and other important information you should know about pursuing a teaching career is constantly being updated at the state level. 

To stay up-to-date on the latest rules for earning your certification, as well as guidelines released on teaching during COVID-19, subscribe to our blog for the latest news.


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Written by Micah Fikes

Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank. In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.

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