Strunk discusses teacher shortage in EdWeek, PACE panel

Featured guest blogger on Rick Hess’ Straight Up for Education Week

By Katherine Mechling

Dr. Katharine Strunk

Dr. Katharine Strunk

Associate Professor Katharine Strunk, whose research centers around K-12 education governance, published a guest blog post on Rick Hess’ Straight Up for Education Week. While serving as the featured guest blogger for Straight Up in November, Strunk wrote about teacher’s unions and layoffs; this time, she focused on an issue that has grown increasingly important: the teacher shortage.

In her post, Strunk breaks down the controversy: many believe that the current teacher shortage is the direct result of education reform policies that have limited teachers’ bargaining rights and tied their job security to their students’ standardized test scores. Strunk argues that, while the effects of reform policies certainly are influencing some teachers’ decisions to leave the profession, other factors including the economy and the aging workforce need to be taken into account as well.

“It’s also important to realize that the shortage has been percolating for a very long time and may have actually been mitigated by the economic downturn and reduced hiring rates,” says Strunk. “For instance, a recent report shows that in California, teacher preparation programs have been producing steadily fewer teachers since 2002, well before the current “anti-teacher” policies were introduced, and barely after the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect. Fewer people seem to be choosing a teaching career.”

Strunk has continued to focus on the teacher shortage as its ramifications for public education in California have grown more stark. In January 2016, she served on a panel at a conference hosted by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), “California’s Emerging Teacher Shortage: New Evidence and Policy Responses.” (USC Rossier Associate Professor Julie Marsh was a moderator; Video of the entire conference is available on the PACE website.)

Still, Strunk insists there is a silver lining: thanks to efforts to curb the shortage, “more than a million-and-a-half new teachers are slated to enter the field in the next two years…[and] it’s possible that many of those new teachers are some of our best and brightest.”