What Indiana Needs to Solve Its Teacher Shortage Crisis

By TeachStrong Ambassador Shannon White

Last May, Representative Carson of Indiana introduced a bill on the House floor to try to solve our country’s growing teacher shortage problem. The bill, H.R. 5357, which has now been referred for subcommittee consideration, proposes an interstate reciprocity of teacher licensure to eliminate the need for additional training to teach in other states.

While this is certainly a means for eliminating hoop-jumping for licensed teachers who want to cross state lines, it will not solve the crisis of classroom vacancies nationwide, and certainly won’t go far enough in Representative Carson’s and my home state of Indiana.

The root of the teacher shortage goes beyond licensure barriers. Rather, it is the result of a low-paying, highly demanding profession with little to no opportunities for growth and leadership.

I don’t want a job for the rest of my life. I want a career — one that offers pathways to advance, grow, and dynamically lead my institution and profession. Unfortunately, the current state of education offers few to no such opportunities outside of becoming an administrator.

As such, many of my colleagues and I are in pursuit of an administrative license — not because we have a burning desire to be in those positions, but because there are simply no other options. This not only exacerbates the teacher shortage, but it also creates a cohort of school administrators who aren’t passionate about administration at all. Rather, they are looking for any alternative in the field that pays more and allows for professional growth.

A recent Learning Policy Institute report explains that solving teacher shortages requires a comprehensive approach to making teaching a more lucrative career. Thankfully, there are movements afoot to address this exact concern. The TeachStrong coalition, a group of more than 60 diverse education organizations dedicated to elevating the teaching profession, recently released a policy proposal calling for more career pathways for teachers. But they don’t stop there.

Like educators nationwide, the TeachStrong coalition recognizes the need for comprehensive change: “All aspects of the teaching profession must be addressed in a systemic way; only then can we create a self-reinforcing cycle through which the status of the profession is raised along with the quality of teaching and learning in our nation’s classrooms.”

So while Representative Carson’s bill is a good start, we need more than a piecemeal approach to strengthen the teaching profession. We need to improve teacher preparation, raise the bar for licensure, pay teachers more, and provide them more opportunities to learn and grow.

The solution to the teacher shortage crisis in Indiana is not just interstate licensure reciprocity. Congress must simultaneously consider legislation that opens doors of leadership and professional growth for accomplished teachers. By prioritizing the entire teacher pipeline, from preparation and licensure to career pathways, we can incentivize great teachers to stay in the field and make the teaching profession more desirable to would-be excellent teachers.

Shannon White is an eighth-year Indiana high school teacher and a TeachStrong Ambassador. She has piloted new programs while teaching in urban settings and served on a team of educators who designed and opened a new alternative school for at-risk students. She also leads professional development in instructional technology and equitable practices for teachers.

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