The Challenge

We ask teachers to be all things to all people at all times. As a result, our education system does not reliably deliver quality learning outcomes and experiences for nearly enough people and communities. It’s an unsustainable system. 

On the first day of school, no teacher should have to look out at a room of 25 or more expectant faces and know, deep down, that there is no possible way to serve all of those children adequately or fairly all of the time, alone.

Beyond teacher shortage

For some time, fewer people have been entering the education profession. More people are leaving it or retiring early. Principal and leader retention continues to challenge schools. Teachers receive less pay and enjoy less social status than many other professionals.

These are long-acknowledged and long-lamented problems. They are more acute in low-income communities. Their very persistence suggests that to continue to address the teacher shortage primarily as a labor supply problem is to profoundly misread the challenge.

Simply certifying more people to perform jobs they are likely to leave in search of more money, advancement opportunities or professional stimulation is not a durable solution.

We’re not facing a teacher supply problem. We’re facing a workforce design problem.


All things to all people at all times

The prevalent one-teacher, one-classroom model asks educators to be all things to all people at all times. It asks teachers to be content experts and pedagogues; to assess children’s socio-emotional and academic development while managing classrooms of 25 or more students; to teach children of all abilities; to be role models and social workers; to be data analysts, trauma interventionists and a host of other roles. In short, teaching as currently defined is an unsustainable job.

The prevalent model not only asks all teachers to do the same things (and all things). It asks them to do the same things for years. Too often, in too many schools, the job of being a teacher looks the same on day 3,000 as it did on day one.

That’s troubling on two fronts: first, it’s hard for novices to meet the volume and variety of learning needs their students have; second, a profession that looks the same on day 3,000 as it does on day one isn’t offering pathways for professional growth and advancement. That’s a recipe for burnout and attrition.

If we’re not getting the educator workforce or the learning outcomes we want, we need to redesign the profession, the workplace, and how we prepare people for both.

How is the Next Education Workforce meeting the challenge?

Learn how Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College works with schools and other partners to build the Next Education Workforce.