Opinions expressed by toptecheasy.com contributors are their own.
Educators, administrators, students and parents are completely exhausted by the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on classrooms and schools across the country. In a shattered industry that was just starting to work before the pandemic, vulnerabilities have been exposed, and many teachers have decided that the only viable option is to leave the classroom, and in some cases, out of education altogether. .
With no end in sight, this current mass exodus and teacher shortage promise to be a pivotal moment in the education sector, and we will have to face the horrific reality: we need to change the system to support both teachers and students.
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As of June 2022, The Wall Street Journal‘s Kathryn Dill reported that “Some 300,000 public school teachers and other staff left the field between February 2020 and May 2022, a nearly 3% drop in that workforce, according to Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
With the upcoming school year fast approaching and reports like the recent National Education Association poll conducted this year showing that 55% of teachers said they would leave education earlier than planned – a stat that has now risen from 37. % in August last year – the education sector is desperate to fill vacant positions and welcome students this fall without having to resort to substitute teacher coverage (another subgroup also experiencing massive shortages).
Any open school staff vacancy means students will not receive a high-quality education, which will have a knock-on 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 foundational courses such as math and English classes, standard deviations in test scores and academic achievement decrease, respectively.
A recent article by Desiree Carver-Thomas for the Learning Policy Institute pointed out that “teacher shortages can suppress student performancebecause schools often cancel courses due to job vacancies or staff classes with substitutes and under-prepared teachers who are not certified to teach their subject.”
Some states such as 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 knowledgeable educators — especially affecting students of color and those in economically disadvantaged areas. .
Bodies in the building with students do not equate to successful learning or even long-term educational solutions. According to the survey, “beginning or unprepared teachers tend to drop out of school on 2 to 3 times the rate of those who come in with extensive preparation.” This creates instability for both students and teachers.
The answer won’t be to lower the bar and hire someone willing to take on the role. The truth is that we are racing against time to solve the teacher shortage for our students’ future as the number of unfilled vacancies in schools and districts reaches record levels. Despite this, despite another school year of huge losses and opportunities, administrators and districts still have options.
Related: What the past year has taught us about the technology gaps for education
These are modern times and there are modern solutions that can bring education from the dark ages into the 21st century. While virtual learning has gotten a bad rap in recent years due to the pandemic battle to launch virtual classrooms across the country by unprepared (and untrained) districts, teachers and students, virtual learning could be the rescue to fill teacher vacancies.
Here’s what didn’t work during the pandemic: Moving the traditional curriculum to a Zoom conversation isn’t an effective approach to virtual learning. From my perspective as a digital education toptecheasy.com, this was what many school districts struggled with the most. Most districts have tried to use a curriculum developed for asynchronous learning (ie the click, click, next solution) and reuse it for real 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 that they can’t personally connect with.
I firmly believe that nothing replaces a well-qualified and licensed teacher, and we can bring those live expert teachers to students and districts regardless of geographic location. Live virtual education allows schools to draw from a national pool of qualified candidates. It’s been my passion and mission to introduce districts and administrators to great teams of teachers who happen to be virtual educators – that’s literally what I do.
The technology is actually much simpler than it seems. By live-streaming teachers to classrooms or dorms, we’re doing two things: removing the geographic barrier to finding teachers in a particular location and giving teachers the flexibility and working conditions they need and deserve.
Therefore, rather than limiting themselves to the area around them, districts can even choose teachers with expertise outside of the school’s usual core curriculum, giving students greater access to electives and enrichment courses across all grades.
And administrators and districts can choose to keep schools open and provide access to services and supervision while receiving live virtual education from licensed, experienced expert teachers. This technology won’t replace teachers or brick-and-mortar schools – it adds flexibility, as well as viable quality education options and alternatives to an otherwise stumbling industry.
Regardless of whether distance learning takes place in the household or in the physical schools, parents, administrators and students know they are getting quality education. Technology and flexibility can go a long way in alleviating the limited teacher supply, and we need to stay ahead of the limitations imposed 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 forward. We have to do better. And we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We now have all the tools and technology at our fingertips to support struggling schools and districts. With the proper implementation of virtual learning technology, schools don’t have to worry about their local teacher shortage. In this modern age, quality education and live expert teachers are just a click away.