Leaving the Classroom

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of classroom teachers are dropping out of school.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office analysis reported 233,000 fewer public school teachers in 2021 compared with 2019. And, it noted that teacher shortages are most acute in western states, rural and urban areas, and high-poverty communities, and in subject areas like foreign language, science and special education.

Negative perceptions of the teaching profession and a “perceived lack of support for current teachers are among key recruitment and retention challenges,” the GAO found.

Just how severe the shortage is nationwide remains unclear, though, because there’s no definitive data that reflects that.

An estimated 49.5 million children were enrolled in public schools in fall 2021, and in the 2020-21 school year, there were 3 million teachers working in public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Institute of Education Sciences, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, estimates that at least half of all public schools had three teacher vacancies on average because of factors like too few candidates, a lack of qualified candidates or salary and benefit concerns.

Over the past two months, reporters from CNHI Newsrooms nationwide have sought to clarify this issue and identify the issues that may be driving it for this special report, “Leaving the Classroom.”

This multi-part report from CNHI News will examine the national teacher shortage as reported by agencies tracking those numbers and explore the reasons why teachers say they have left the profession or are considering a career change.

Across the country, many teachers told CNHI News they feel stressed and burned out. Many report a lack of support from parents or state leaders, struggles with student discipline and stagnant salaries; they feel angry over high-stakes testing and heightened political tensions around matters of equity and diversity.

The report also will look at how factors such as low pay, burnout and culture wars play a role in whether teachers stay in the classroom, and examine one solution that is growing in popularity as a way to attract teaching candidates: the four-day school week.

Trending Video

Recommended for you