Approximately 130,000 full-time teachers and administrators are employed in Illinois public schools, comprising a workforce responsible for supporting the positive, holistic development of 1.9 million youth across the state. In 2021, roughly 87% of that teacher workforce was retained. Although teacher retention has remained stable for the past 5 years, an educator shortage disproportionately exists in certain subject areas, such as special education and bilingual/English as a Second Language; educator demographics, such as race; and geographic areas, including rural and urban districts. By focusing our research on those areas where shortages are pronounced, IWERC aims to explore the factors that contribute to the development and retention of diverse, high-quality teachers.
In Spring 2022, we surveyed 3,478 current and former Illinois public school educators from nearly 60% of districts statewide to examine the individual-, school-, and community-level factors that contribute to educator retention, mobility, and attrition. In this report, we analyze the qualitative comments from a subset of 1,898 current and former educators who responded to the survey’s open-ended prompts. These comments revealed important differences—and similarities—between current and former educators’ employment decisions and job satisfaction. A majority of comments detailed educators’ views on and experiences with the working conditions and school climates cultivated by administration. We highlight the personal stories—both positive and negative—behind educators’ decisions to stay in or leave their positions with the goal of informing the development and implementation of targeted strategies and policies that aim to improve educator recruitment and retention.
The Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative (IWERC), in partnership with IARSS, the LEAD Hubs, and Goshen Education Consulting, surveyed over 3,000 current and former educators across Illinois about their working conditions. Less than half (40%) of all educators—both current and former—reported satisfaction with their compensation. Despite this general finding, relationships with school leadership emerged as a critical factor for educator retention. Results also indicated that under half (47%) of former educators had positive relationships with leadership, compared to three-fourths (77%) of current educators.
A research-practice partnership (RPP) to assess the state’s teacher recruitment and retention
The Illinois Educator Shortage Survey, which began in 2017 by a RPP of regional superintendents and education policy and research groups, was designed to capture school district superintendents’ perceptions of the educator workforce across the state. The annual survey assesses the impact of the educator supply on day-to-day district operations such as open positions and class offerings.
In 2021, IWERC joined this RPP and helped launch an educator employment project to examine the patterns of and factors that contribute to teacher and administrator attrition and mobility across the state. Both projects aim to provide leadership at multiple levels—from school communities to state lawmakers—with critical information about their workforce that can (1) shape recruitment and retention strategies and (2) influence policy to support learner populations disproportionately affected by the educator shortage and teacher attrition and mobility.
Illinois public school districts struggle to find qualified teachers, leading to high vacancy rates. To address this issue, policymakers, education leaders, and stakeholders are focusing on strategies to increase the supply of qualified teachers in areas with severe shortages. This report identifies key traits of districts facing chronic teacher shortages. These include urban and rural settings, lower teacher salaries, high proportions of novice teachers, and student populations with high percentages of low-income families, students of color, English language learners, and students with special needs. The findings span six years of investigation, highlighting recurring and severe teacher shortages in these districts.
Abstract: Data from the annual Educator Shortage Survey conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools indicate that the burden on public schools to find qualified teachers was significantly more challenging during Fall 2022 than in previous years. Data from the Illinois State Board of Education confirm that the proportion of posted teacher positions reported by districts as unfilled increased substantially from previous years. A major implication of teacher shortages is inequitable student access to high-quality teachers. Targeted strategies are greatly needed to bolster the supply of qualified teachers in areas with deep and persistent shortages.
Abstract: Data from the annual Educator Shortage Survey conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools indicate that the burden on public schools to find qualified educators has not improved over recent years. Data from the Illinois State Board of Education further show that the pool of qualified teachers and administrators does not meet the demand of districts and schools. It is imperative that policymakers invest in all parts of the educator pipeline from recruitment and preparation to induction and retention to support the development and maintenance of a highly qualified and diverse educator workforce statewide.
Abstract: Teacher shortages are broadly distributed across Illinois for all content areas and grade bands—from elementary to high school. Yet specific content areas and geographic regions differ in severity of shortages. This white paper, the first of a two-part series, investigates (1) which content areas are in the highest need of qualified teachers; (2) which populations are most impacted by staffing difficulties; and (3) the long-term magnitude of the problem.
Abstract: Teacher shortages are broadly distributed across Illinois for all content areas and grade bands. Yet specific content areas and geographic regions differ in severity of shortages. This white paper, the second of a two-part series, delves into the specific shortages of content area and geographic region by grade band. For each grade band, we examine (1) where the reported unfilled (i.e., job openings that remain vacant) and underfilled (i.e., job openings occupied by under-qualified, substitute, or outsourced hires) teacher positions are geographically located for all content areas; (2) the content areas that comprise the top quintile of un- and underfilled teacher positions; and (3) the breakdown of un- and underfilled teacher positions by hiring method for the most impacted content areas. The findings continue to show that strategic efforts to address teacher shortages should target specific content areas and geographic regions as opposed to blanket policies that impact the whole profession.
Abstract: The annual Educator Shortage Survey, conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, indicates that shortages of support personnel (e.g., school counselors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and speech-language pathologists) were severe for the 2021-22 academic year. Districts are struggling to fill open positions in these areas throughout the state and at all grade levels. These positions provide much-needed support for students as schools respond to the impacts of COVID-19. Findings highlight the importance of strategic efforts that develop and retain a highly qualified and diverse educator workforce statewide.
Abstract: The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) has conducted an annual survey of superintendents for the past five years.3 Combining results on teacher shortages from the IARSS survey and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Unfilled Positions report indicate concentrated and persistent hiring challenges in specific content areas (e.g., special education and English as a second language/bilingual education) and geographic areas.4 To further understand root causes of staffing issues related to teacher recruitment, we compared teachers’ starting salary across all districts in Illinois against multiple measures of teacher shortage. Broadly, there was some evidence supporting a relationship between starting salary and measures of teacher shortage. First, a weak positive association was found between starting salary and teacher retention. Second, a weak negative association was found between starting salary and superintendents’ perceptions of shortage severity.