Turning the Tide: A Strategic Plan to Address the Educator Shortage
Virginia Teacher Vacancy Rate and Unfilled FTE’s by Region, 2021—2022
- Vacancy Rate: 2.83%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 2,593.7
- Vacancy Rate: 2.34%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 797.8
Blue Ridge and Valley
- Vacancy Rate: 1.94%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 143.5
Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula
- Vacancy Rate: 3.70%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 206.0
- Vacancy Rate: 3.79%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 527.6
- Vacancy Rate: 1.07%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 50.9
- Vacancy Rate: 1.91%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 122.2
- Vacancy Rate: 3.93%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 78.6
Tidewater and Eastern Shore
- Vacancy Rate: 3.8%
- Number of Unfilled (FTE): 667.3
Data-informed Practices, Barriers, & Priorities
Like the rest of the nation, Virginia continues to face significant educator recruitment and retention challenges. Nationally, 40% of school division leaders and principals describe their current staff shortages as “severe” or “very severe,” according to a survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center. Longstanding challenges such as low salaries and the financial burden of completing licensure requirements have become even more concerning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought increased levels of stress among educators, greater concerns over safety, and further financial strain related to the 2020 recession.
According to the 2021 Annual Report on the Condition of Needs of Public Schools in Virginia-This is a Word document. by the Virginia Board of Education, there were 1,063 unfilled teaching positions for the 2019-20 school year. As of August 2022, the Staffing and Vacancy “Build-a-Table” tool shows 2,594 teacher vacancies. It is important to note that the Staffing and Vacancy report is based on a new data collection tool (the Positions and Exits Collection), first implemented in 2021-2022, which expanded the vacancy data from previous years.
Recruitment and Retention Advisory Committee
In response to these concerns, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), surveyed its current programs and initiatives related to recruitment and retention and to articulate clear plans for moving forward. In January of 2022, the Department of Teacher Education and Licensure formed the Recruitment and Retention Advisory Committee, with representatives from key stakeholders across all eight superintendent’s regions. Members include parents, students, human capital professionals, teachers, principals, VDOE employees, higher education partners, community members, and more.
The committee began by reviewing and discussing current efforts, such as more flexible licensure policies, offering hiring and retention funding for school divisions, awarding grants to help cover the cost of assessments, and offering scholarships to college students completing their student-teaching experience. Although these efforts have been well received and greatly appreciated by recipients, successes are scattered across the Commonwealth, rather than united under one guiding initiative. To the Advisory Committee, the need for a statewide strategic plan became more and more apparent.
Between January and August of 2022, the Advisory Committee worked diligently to develop this strategic plan, which they call, “Turning the Tide: Addressing the Educator Shortage in Virginia.” The plan includes background on the shortage and provides recommendations for moving forward over the next three years. These actions are guided by the below goals and strategies and align with Governor Youngkin's Executive Directive Number 3:
- Goal 1: Reduce barriers for qualified individuals to enter the profession
- Goal 2: Increase the number of candidates eligible to fill public school divisions’ hard-to-staff positions
- Goal 3: Strengthen strategies to recruit and retain a diverse, highly-qualified educator workforce
- Strategy 1: Implement policies and practices to make careers in education more attractive and attainable
- Strategy 2: Implement programs and practices to recruit, support, and retain highly-qualified educators with an emphasis on critical shortage areas
It is hoped that this plan will be helpful to Virginia’s school divisions, institutions of higher education, VDOE employees, and other stakeholders committed to securing a diverse, highly-qualified educator workforce and contribute to fulfilling our shared vision of maximizing the potential of all learners. The complete strategic plan document will be available for download soon.
What is currently being done to address these challenges?
Although the “Turning the Tide” strategic plan offers a helpful review of recruitment and retention initiatives and a pathway forward, it is important to remember that the VDOE has been working with stakeholders to address the educator shortage for years. Below are a few examples of the work already completed or in progress, organized into a few categories:
Numerous grants have been developed and offered. Some are funded by American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III). These grants are typically offered on an ad-hoc basis and will not necessarily be offered on a regular basis. Other funding programs have been funded by the Virginia General Assembly and may be offered more regularly. Learn more here.
Several policies have been established to provide greater flexibility to educators, including 2022 General Assembly House Bill 829, which expanded the types of licenses issued by the DPH that may be eligible for provisional licensure with a school counselor endorsement and 2021 House Bill 1776, which establishes a two-year extension of the renewable license for public school teachers with licenses set to expire in 2021.
The Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program offers scholarships to teacher candidates from in approved teacher education programs committed to teaching in critical shortage areas, in career and technical education, or high-needs area as determined by the Board of Education. Established by the 1999 General Assembly House Bill 2710, the National Teacher Certification Incentive Reward Program and Fund established awards for teachers who obtain certification.
The Department of Teacher Education and Licensure continue to provide resources to divisions including trainings on the online licensure application portal and other topics related to licensure, access to weekly newsletters featuring important information and opportunities, and the use of a job recruitment tool.