How technology can support filling teaching vacancies

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Teachers, administrators, students and parents have been completely exhausted by the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on classrooms and schools around the country. In a devastated industry that barely took the brunt of the pre-pandemic, vulnerabilities have been exposed, and many educators have decided that the only viable option is to get out of the classroom, and in some cases out of education altogether.

With no end in sight, this current mass exodus and teacher shortage promises to be a pivotal moment in the education industry, and we must face the dire reality: We must change the system to support both teachers and students.

Related: How education is changing the world and technology is changing education

The problems

From June 2022, The Wall Street Journal‘s Kathryn Dill reported that “About 300,000 public school teachers and other employees left the field between February 2020 and May 2022, a nearly 3% decline in that workforce, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.”

With the upcoming school year fast approaching and reports such as the recent National Education Association survey conducted this year finding that 55% of teachers said they would leave education sooner than planned – a statistic that is now up from 37% in August of last year – the education sector is desperate to fill vacancies and welcome students back this autumn without having to resort to temporary staffing (another subgroup also experiencing massive shortages).

Every unfilled position in the school means that students are not getting a high-quality education, which has a resounding effect on results for years to come. Research has shown that teacher absences have serious consequences for students. When schools and districts struggle to fill core courses such as math and English classes, the standard deviation in test scores and learning achievement, respectively, decreases.

A recent article by Desiree Carver-Thomas for the Learning Policy Institute pointed out “teacher shortages can significantly reduce student achievement, as schools often cancel courses due to vacancies or staff classes with substitute and underprepared teachers who are not certified to teach their subject matter.” .”

Some states like California and Connecticut have responded to shortages by reducing the qualifications and certifications to enter the classroom, but this undermines students’ opportunities to learn from expert teachers — especially affecting students of color and those in economically disadvantaged areas.

Bodies in the building with students do not equate successful learning or long-term educational solutions. According to the research, “beginner or unprepared teachers tend to leave their schools at 2 to 3 times the rate of those who enter with extensive preparation.” As a result, this creates instability for both students and teachers.

The answer isn’t going to be to lower the roster and recruit someone willing to take on the role. The truth is that we are racing against the clock to solve the teacher shortage for the future of our students as school and district vacancies reach record levels. Nonetheless, despite another school year of major losses and opportunities, administrators and districts still have options.

Related: What the past year taught us about the gaps in technology for education

The solutions

These are modern times, and there are modern solutions that can bring education out of the dark ages and into the 21st century. While virtual learning has gotten a bad rap in recent years due to the pandemic’s struggle to launch virtual classrooms across the nation by unprepared (and untrained) districts, teachers and students, virtual learning may be the saving grace for filling teaching vacancies.

Here’s what didn’t work during the pandemic: moving traditional curriculum to a Zoom call is not an effective virtual learning approach. From my perspective as an entrepreneur in digital education, this is where many school districts struggled the most. Most districts have tried to take a curriculum designed for asynchronous learning (ie, click, click, next fix) and try to repurpose it for true virtual instruction, rather than investing in a dynamic online curriculum. Students aren’t going to log in, turn on their cameras, or engage with content or teachers they can’t connect with in person.

I firmly believe that nothing replaces a well-qualified and licensed teacher, and we can bring these live expert teachers to students and districts regardless of geographic location. Live virtual teaching allows schools to draw from a national pool of qualified candidates. It has been my passion and mission to introduce districts and administrators to amazing teams of teachers who happen to be virtual teachers – that’s literally what I do.

The technology is actually much simpler than it seems. By live streaming teachers into classrooms or dorms, we do two things: eliminate the geographic barrier to finding teachers within a given location and give teachers the flexibility and working conditions they need and deserve.

Therefore, rather than being limited to their area, districts can even select teachers with expertise outside of the school’s regular core curriculum, giving students expanded access to elective and enrichment courses for all grade levels.

And administrators and districts can choose to keep schools open, providing access to services and supervision while receiving real-time virtual instruction from accredited, experienced expert teachers. This technology doesn’t replace teachers or brick-and-mortar schools—it adds flexibility as well as viable quality education options and alternatives to an otherwise stagnant industry.

Regardless of whether distance learning takes place in the household or in physical schools, parents, administrators and students know that they are receiving a quality education. Technology and flexibility can go a long way towards relieving the limited teacher supply, and we need to get ahead of the limitations that have been placed on the education system in the past.

Related: Back to School, Not Back to Normal: EdTech Shaping a New Future for Education

We must move on. We have to do better. And we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We have all the tools and technology we need on hand right now to support struggling schools and districts. With the right implementation of virtual learning technology, schools need not fear their local teacher shortage. In this modern age, quality education and live expert teachers are just a click away.

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