Educator Shortage Cross-State Collaborative Sessions

Exploring innovative strategies to address pandemic-related educator shortages through cross-state problem solving.

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Featured Resource

Addressing Shortages of Educators in an Uncertain COVID-19 Landscape: Viewing Teacher Candidates as Assets 

Discover concrete ways teacher candidates can be leveraged to better support veteran teachers during the shift to distance learning, or new education models during challenging times. 

Colorado Department of Education; Illinois State Board of Education; Vermont Agency of Education

Facilitated five peer-to-peer engagements with state teams to identify local challenges related to educator shortages exacerbated by COVID and share strategies and opportunities to strengthen the educator workforce.

Strategies to address short-term and long-term challenges with educator shortages and a community of state education agencies.

Lisa Lachlan, GTL Center Project Lead
Jason LaTurner, GTL Center and R9CC Project Lead
Etai Mizrav, GTL Center and R9CC Project Lead
Jessica Giffin, GTL Center and R12CC Project Lead
Samantha LeVangie, GTL Center and R1CC Project Coordinator


The Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the long-term educator shortages across the country. Remote and hybrid learning models often required additional staff to effectively facilitate instruction, requiring innovative staffing models and adding stress to the system. Too address the shortages, many districts and school relied on policies such as utilizing long-term substitute teachers or loosening licensure requirements. However, these strategies may have worsened the long-term, systemic challenges with educator shortages, particularly in underserved schools that serve students of colors and face chronic shortages.

The Opportunity

The educator shortage challenges due to the pandemic are evolving and many long-term strategic solutions may not feasible to address these immediate educator workforce needs. To help state education agencies (SEAs) consider strategies that will not further exacerbate systemic teacher shortages, the GTL Center and Region 1 and 9 Comprehensive Centers established a Community of Practice of SEAs, districts, and other stakeholders to collaboratively develop COVID-specific educator shortage solutions alongside experts and peers.

The Approach

The Educator Shortage Cross-Collaborative facilitated five peer-to-peer engagements, each focused on a topic related to addressing educator shortages. Using a collaborative inquiry protocol, state teams shared a topic-specific problem of practice and received feedback, ideas, and collective brainstorming with their peers and experts. Each session included a brief presentation on the topic focused on the research, best practices, or other innovative strategies to share with state teams. Session topics included:

  1. Addressing educator shortage by leveraging educator prep programs (EPPs) and engaging teacher candidates: strategies for utilizing teacher candidates within the school building during COVID-19.
  2. Addressing substitute teacher shortages: strategies for addressing shortages in substitute teachers and the challenges with relying on substitute teaching staff to address shortage long-term.
  3. Developing innovative staffing structures: the Opportunity Culture staffing model and other innovative staffing approaches during COVID in schools.
  4. Preventing educator attrition and retirements: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on educator mental health and well-being, current data on educator attrition and retirement rates, and the potential future impacts of stress and burnout on the teaching profession.
  5. Investing in teachers first: A discussion of new federal funding opportunities: the importance of investing in educators through the use of American Rescue Plan funding and leveraging opportunities to bolster the educator workforce.

Project Outcomes

The peer-to-peer sessions led to productive and engaging discussions that resulted in the following key takeaways:

  • Engage and utilize teacher candidates from educator preparation programs. Consider new collaborations with educator preparation programs (EPPs) that engage teacher candidates to help fill learning gaps and provide additional assistance to students. For example, candidates can create video content for lessons, locate and curate online content, create extension activities, and monitor small groups of students for teachers. 
  • Be aware that some short-term efforts addressing shortages may hinder long-term strategies. For example, relaxing rules for when and for how long substitutes can teach in place of full-time teachers can counteract or hinder long-term efforts to build the quality and prestige of the profession. 
  • Continue the innovations and new flexibilities that were designed to address challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. New staffing models have the potential of leveraging teachers' expertise and knowledge to give them reach beyond a typical classroom and providing new pathways for teacher growth and recognition. 
  • Consider new incentives to encourage veteran teachers to reamain in the profession. Retaining veteran teachers is especially important, as their expertise will be needed in the schools that have been most impacted by the pandemic and have been traditionally difficult to staff. 

To learn more about the project's outcomes, download: Generating Solutions to COVID-Specific Educator Shortages: A Synthesis of Insights from a Cross-State Collaborative

Client Perspective

“Over the past year, I have come to understand more deeply that the value of conferences/gatherings is the conversation that occurs in the hallways and breakfast tables. This series was the first that helped me make connections with peers in other states to whom I could reach out as thought partners.”

~ Community of Practice Participant