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Teacher shortage continues as school year nears

55% of teachers said they were planning to leave the profession early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey from the National Education Association.

IOWA, USA — The start of the school year is getting closer and closer, but many classrooms across Iowa are missing a key component: the teachers. 

Teach Iowa, the statewide job posting website for teachers, lists more than 1,400 openings for classroom teachers in the Hawkeye State as of Friday.

Filling all those positions is a pretty tall order.

In January 2022, a survey from the National Education Association found that 55% of teachers are planning to leave education sooner than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That has put school districts in a bit of a bind. 

More and more districts are still searching for new teachers.

"All content areas, all types of positions. And so some of the areas that were never shortage areas at all, now we're getting people asking us, 'Hey, do you have any graduates who are available?'" said Mark McDermott, Associate Dean of Teacher Education & Student Services at the University of Iowa School of Education.

But the issue dates back to before COVID. The number of incoming teachers has been on the decline.

In 2010, there were 275,000 incoming teachers across the U.S. Ten years later, that's down to just 200,000, and it's projected to go as low as 120,000 by 2025.

"We fill those needs in a variety of ways. We condense classes, we have larger class sizes, we cancel classes," said Doug Smith, Associate Professor of Education at Iowa State University.

However, a lack of incoming teachers is just one side of the problem. Smith said the bigger issue is finding ways to keep current educators from leaving the field.

"We know that 90% of teacher turnover is driven by pre-retirement exits from teaching. So we really what we have with our teacher shortage issue is the teacher retention issue," he said.

So is there any relief in sight? It's tough to say for sure. 

Smith told Local 5 one way to help fix that retention issue is improving support for teachers outside of the classroom. That could be more support from school administrators to building stronger connections with parents, educators need help dealing with the stresses of the job.

"We have just as strong of leadership shortages, and turnover that we have in teacher turnover, and leadership turnover leads to teacher turnover. it exacerbates those issues in those districts," Smith said.

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