Policy Spotlight: An Unfolding Crisis in the Satisfaction and Supply of Teachers in Illinois
reportposted on 09.06.2021, 14:40 by MEGHAN A. KESSLER
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the professional realities of teachers were upended to a degree experienced by few other professionals. Yet, the importance of high-quality, well-supported teachers was never more apparent. This Policy Spotlight contextualizes the professional and personal challenges experienced by K-12 educators during the COVID-19 pandemic within the policy issue of the ongoing Illinois teacher shortage. Drawing from a qualitative study of Illinois teachers’ well-being and professional efficacy during the pandemic, the Policy Spotlight provides specific examples of the intensified challenges teachers faced during the summer and fall of 2020. These included pandemic-induced threats to their or their families’ health, safety, and financial stability. Further, teachers reported deep concern for the safety and well-being of their students, some of whom they feared were caught in situations of adversity or trauma. Teachers also shared concern that the urgent transition to remote or blended learning disrupted their successful routines and threatened their sense of professional efficacy. Despite the best efforts of school leaders, many teachers were not supplied with the appropriate resources or support to transition modalities. Although educators, administrators, and school personnel across the state worked hard to plan and implement schooling that best responded to the needs of families and communities, numerous challenges, fears, and concerns persisted. These fears and challenges carried the potential to lead to increased teacher attrition. To stave off or lessen severe teacher shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the author argues for the revitalization of policy and community supports that would enable teacher retention. These include investments in teacher preparation, continuing education, school staffing, and other structural supports.