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Shortage to Surplus


While shortages in education have been widely covered in the media over the past year, researchers, consultants and education leaders have warned of the looming dysfunction on the horizon for more than a decade. Teacher vacancies tend to dominate the headlines, but schools struggle to fill a variety of positions, from bus drivers and food service workers to building leaders, technology professionals and health service providers. Economists use the term “disequilibrium” to describe a mismatch between supply and demand that results in a surplus or shortage. Although market forces drive towards a return to equilibrium, this change doesn’t happen overnight. Education has experienced periods of disequilibrium in the past. In the late 2000s, the Great Recession produced a surplus of educators. Graduates of teacher preparation programs couldn't find jobs while fewer people left education for career opportunities in other industries. Even though this type of disequilibrium benefits students and schools, high educator unemployment rates still need to be managed. At the same, time a handful of states realized that their retirement systems were headed towards insolvency and a gap that had opened between what states promised retirees and what they had set aside for those individuals. Given the retirement system challenges, states changed policies and incentivized early retirements. Many educators took advantage of the offer, which helped move staffing back towards a state of equilibrium. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the education labor market was already beginning to drift toward a talent shortage. The Great Resignation exacerbated this trend, as resignations and retirements hit record levels nationally in 2021. On March 28, 2022, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issued a call to action to school districts, higher education leaders and states requesting that they work together and leverage federal resources to address the teacher shortage. This call to action recognizes that addressing the myriad of factors contributing to current educator shortages requires a coordinated effort.


To promote conversations across traditional silos, the American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA) convened PK-20 stakeholders to discuss educator workforce and pipeline shortages. The term “educator” is used broadly to encompass all staff working in schools. The goal of the National Educator Shortage Summit was to initiate comprehensive conversations among the PK-20 education community, promote the sharing of diverse perspectives and identify opportunities to replicate promising practices. Over two days in February 2022, featured speakers shared shortage research while more than 200 participants engaged in roundtable conversations to prioritize challenges and potential solutions to bring back to their state, district or organization. Although many conversations are occurring on this topic nationally, AASPA was interested in creating an environment for stakeholders to build relationships and envision a path forward together. The Educator Shortage Summit was intended to be a first step toward building momentum for collaborative, ongoing action to address the educator shortage. 


Labor shortages are complex problems created by a web of intersecting factors. Key factors contributing to the current educator shortage are presented in the form of a PESTLE analysis.

PESTLE is an acronym that stands for the six segments of the macro environment: (1) political, (2) economic, (3) social, (4) technological, (5) legal and (6) environmental. A PESTLE analysis provides a way to audit and document key external factors that influence an organization, industry or economy.


Across industries, shortage management tactics tend to include practices like piquing interest in the profession early, offering financial support for education and licensure, providing alternative pathways and increasing compensation. While Summit participants shared many ideas and examples aligned to these traditional methods of addressing talent shortages, the group came to believe that strategic and coordinated action needs to occur to resolve labor shortages. Cross-industry research supports the importance of looking beyond the symptoms of talent shortages to address underlying issues driving turnover and diminishing interest in the profession. Employee engagement has hit a low point, and most adults experience at least one symptom of workplace stress (Buckingham, 2022). As a result, employees are re-evaluating their relationship to work and their career goals. Traditional changes may yield incremental improvements and short-term relief, but they will not stem the exodus of educators seeking opportunities elsewhere. This white paper moves beyond surface-level responses to examine deeper, systemic issues that contribute to mismatches between educator supply and demand. Five comprehensive shifts are presented in contrast to traditional calls to action. A discussion of each shift contains high-level recommendations, along with examples of actions that different stakeholder groups can take to address the educator shortage. Representatives from stakeholder organizations, including government, associations, nonprofits, preparation programs and PK-12 education organizations can use this paper to chart a pathway forward. Ensuring each student has the future they deserve requires disruptive change. It involves redesigning talent systems in education to create workplaces that both attract new people into education and retain those who want to stay. 

Shift 1

Reduce barriers to careers in education while preserving standards of excellence.

Traditional call to action: Create pathways to careers in education.

AASPA shifts web.png

Shift 2

Design comprehensive human capital management systems.

Traditional call to action: Provide educators with more resources.

Shift 3

Establish transparent and equitable total rewards systems.

Traditional call to action: Increase educator pay.


Shift 4

Strengthen educators' sense of purpose, belonging, and connection.

Traditional call to action: Support employee wellness.

Shift 5

Deliver exceptional employment experiences.

Traditional call to action: Promote the profession.

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