In a recent New York Times article, several letters outline the possible causes for the present teacher shortage. School districts with the highest percentage of historically underserved students will suffer the most. Schools will now have to empower teachers to avert the continued teacher shortage.

According to the article, many educators believe that low pay, lack of respect and support, and high stakes testing have contributed to the teacher shortage.

Low teacher pay will not offset the present high student debt that many teachers face. Student-loan debt in the United States totals $1 trillion which has eclipsed the amount that people owe on credit cards. The average borrower who graduates from a public or private institution owes approximately $25,250. When the loan is not repaid, the U.S. Education Department can turn borrowers’ names over to federal prosecutors, who in turn hire private law firms to retrieve their money.

In a recent incident, 58-year-old Linda Brice, a first grade teacher in Los Angeles had defaulted on $3,100 more than three decades ago. The law firm Goldsmith & Hull, that represented the federal government, withdrew $2,496 from her bank account and seized a quarter of her wages, which amounted to more than $900 a month. This occurred after a chief federal judge ruled in her favor and submitted a judgment where she should only pay $25 a month. Teacher pay coupled along with student debt is having a tremendous impact on the teacher shortage because many perspective teachers may choose an alternative occupation to avoid student debt circumstances that are detrimental.

High stakes testing and lack of respect and support are a product of systemic changes that avert empowering teachers which now contribute to the teacher shortage.

How does empowering teachers avoid the teacher shortage?

  1. Enhances job satisfaction – It’s frustrating to a teacher to know what’s right, but feel powerless to do anything.  Giving teachers some decision-making ability will decrease frustration and improve teacher retention.
  2. Raises expectations – When a teacher is empowered, that teacher has higher expectations. When teachers expectations are raised, teachers will rise to extraordinary levels and can become the catalyst for growth.
  3. Increases the quality of work – In organizations that provide employees with the freedom and flexibility to make a difference, employees feel empowered to deliver high quality work. Schools that provide teachers with the freedom and flexibility to be empowered will deliver higher levels of quality work.
  4. Increases collaboration – As teachers are empowered and treated as vital components of the school, they gain self-confidence in their abilities to positively influence the school. Teachers with healthy levels of self-confidence and self-esteem are more willing to share information with others. They feel comfortable exchanging ideas and collaborating with other teachers in an honest and open manner. These behaviors promote teamwork and active involvement in support of school and district wide goals that could not be achieved with a disjointed, non-connected workforce.
  5. Increases productivity – Teachers who are granted the power to take charge at work feel an increased sense of responsibility, accountability, and ownership for their work. They will work diligently to meet deadlines and school goals. They will feel energized enough to do what it takes to get the job done and to do it right. All of these reasons fuel an empowered teacher to be more productive, providing better performance results for the school.

The additional benefits provided to teachers through teacher empowerment include increasing teacher job performance and competence, improved morale of teachers, increased knowledge of subject matter, teaching strategies, methods, techniques and pedagogy, and finally resulting in higher motivation among students as well as higher levels of academic achievement. All in all, empowering teachers creates a positive environment which will ultimately eliminate the present teacher shortage.

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W.Va. Education Association president calls teacher shortage ‘a crisis’


Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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