Coverage of teachers and the teaching profession is central to the education beat, but it requires an understanding of some complex issues — preparation, licensure, compensation, recruitment and retention, professional development, and unionism.
It’s a formidable topic that yields important stories: Research shows that among school-related factors, teachers matter most for student achievement, leading to persistent pushes to improve teacher quality. Teachers and their unions are also a powerful political force with considerable influence on education policy, funding, and, during the pandemic, whether and when schools would reopen.
In recent years, big shifts have occurred in policy, such as the push and pull of high-stakes accountability measures. In addition, across-the-board pay raises have taken place in response to historic statewide work stoppages.
There are also perennial challenges, such as teacher supply. Many school districts struggle to find enough teachers in certain subject areas, and enrollment in teacher preparation programs has steadily declined across the country over the last decade. School districts are also worried about retaining teachers: 8% leave the profession annually, and another 8% change schools. Teachers most often cite dissatisfaction as a main reason for quitting.
Turnover rates are higher among teachers of color. The teaching corps is overwhelmingly white, yet it serves an increasingly diverse population of students by race and ethnicity. This reality has sparked increased efforts to diversify the teaching ranks, as well as to rethink the training and support for educators already in classrooms.
Reporters can explore rich questions, such as: How can policymakers make the teaching profession more attractive — and sustainable — to a diverse group of qualified candidates? What new strategies are emerging to improve or reimagine teacher preparation? How should teachers be evaluated? What is the future of teacher compensation, and what do reporters need to know to better understand and contextualize teacher pay? How can districts rethink staffing models to better support high-quality instruction?
Updated June 2021.