Northwest Herald

Guest column: Worried about the teacher shortage? Invest in your leaders

The “State of Our Educator Pipeline 2023″ report by Advance Illinois underscores the challenges in Illinois’ education system and the urgent need to address the teacher shortage comprehensively. While recruiting more teachers is important, addressing teacher attrition, responsible for 90% of the demand, requires a deeper examination of root causes and strategies to retain high-quality educators.

Teachers often leave due to poor working conditions and inadequate support from school leaders. Competent school leaders can create a positive work environment, vital for addressing the teacher shortage. Investing in capable school leaders is vital to addressing the teacher shortage and establishing the necessary conditions for retaining high-quality educators, while effective district leaders play a key role in empowering principals.

Extensive research pinpoints four critical skills of effective school leaders: interpersonal skills fostering a positive school climate, instructional skills prioritizing teacher support, collaboration skills promoting teamwork and professional growth, and organizational skills for efficient management. Diverse leadership has benefits, including increased teacher diversity and better outcomes for students of color.

We urge the Illinois State Board of Education to prioritize:

  • Funding the Aspire Fellowship program to support leadership candidates and recruit educators of color.
  • Supporting another cohort of the New Principal Recruitment grant for Arab, Indian, and Asian educators of color and under-resourced districts lacking staff with Principal Endorsements.
  • Restoring state funding for New Principal Mentoring.
  • Maintaining state funding for New Superintendent Mentoring.
  • Allocating district capacity-building grants to assist districts in implementing programs centered on the school leadership pipeline.

Illinois must make a significant commitment to establishing a statewide system for preparing and developing effective leaders, crucial for retaining high-quality teachers who can meet students’ learning needs and drive organizational and instructional improvements.

• Erika Hunt is director, lead hub; and Lisa Hood is research and evaluation director, lead hub, at Regional Office of Education #17 in Bloomington.