Dr. Hans A. Andrews and Dr. Greg Rockhold

Dr. Hans Andrews is a Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership through Olney Central College (Illinois). He is a former president of the college. He started the first dual-credit program in the country between community colleges and secondary schools. He authored the book The Dual-Credit Phenomenon! Challenging Secondary School Students across 50 States.

Dr. Greg Rockhold has served on the National Association of Secondary School Principals board, as president of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators, and executive director of the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals.


“This is the most challenging hiring climate I have had in my 18 years of being a principal.” Principal of a Secondary School in Indiana, U.S.

It is well beyond the time that school districts in the United States and most other countries need to bring an end to the teacher shortage crisis that has been growing and continues to grow.  The superintendent in the second largest school district in Illinois, United States, stated it is no longer an issue that should go on beyond now!  This response came right after she found her district was still over 100 teachers and over 100 paraprofessional staff short the first week of school.

What is causing the tsunami* of teacher shortages overrunning our school systems for nearly the past ten years?  Is it low pay?  Is it because fewer students are entering the field of education?  Is it because the cost of pursuing a baccalaureate degree in education has become far too expensive?  Is it because our teacher preparation pipeline colleges and universities do not have an outreach to the 70-80 percent of the population that might be recruited to enter an educational career?  We believe the answer can be summarized as all of the above!  

Many other superintendents have found the same shortage pattern with almost none of them reporting it is less of a problem than in the previous year.  The estimate for the entire state of Illinois is that there are now over 7,000 teachers and paraprofessionals short compared to nearly 5,000 a year earlier.

How this Tsunami affects a school district

Teachers:  The school districts are once again overloading the teachers with one or more additional course preparations each day.  The first report in the fall semester of 2023 estimated teacher vacancies across the U.S. at 55,289 which is up 51 percent from the fall of 2022 when 36,504 shortages were reported. 

Students without qualified teachers

Hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. alone have been trying to learn from underqualified teachers.  Schools are reaching into an ever-decreasing market for part-time or substitute teachers.  It was reported that there were 270,512 persons teaching in the U.S. schools who were not certified in meeting state qualifications to teach.  

Programs being cancelled 

Over 60 four-year colleges and universities have dropped their teacher preparation programs. Oklahoma State University suspended its early childhood and elementary education programs.  The University of South Florida closed its College of Education except for its graduate program.

These are just a small sample of the hundreds of colleges of education programs that are near cancelling due to low enrollments.  The national statistics in the U.S. show that, since 2010, over one-third of enrollments in these programs have declined.

Over 1,300 more colleges are running very short on enrollees and are hanging on by a thread.

Costs to attend a university teacher program

The following is a sampling of the costs projected for attending a U.S. university during the present year for their in-state residents:

  • University of Illinois – $35,000 – $40,000 
  • University of New Mexico – $27,514 
  • Michigan State University – $27,805 
  • University of California – $34,667

Pressures to not allow a new pipeline to be opened

Higher Education University pressures preventing community colleges from adding baccalaureate degrees in education and numerous other fields. Universities can keep pressure on state legislators to not pass legislation allowing community colleges to offer the programs. Universities can place an amount of due pressure on their graduates, who are now politicians.

Superintendents and Boards of Education:  What can they do?

School boards depend upon their top administrators to guide them through the maze of how to solve the ongoing teacher shortages.  Most school board members have not been educators and needs competent leadership to show how between the boards and administrators action can be started and can be effective. 

This is also where political leaders need to feel the pressure now.  It needs to come from the school leaders and boards of education in each of their districts.  The seriousness of the teacher shortages affects every school district of the political leaders.

Superintendents can organize. Almost every school district, large, inner city, urban or small and rural has this problem of teacher shortages and the utilization of non qualified persons in their schools.  

Superintendents and board members working together can make for a strong force in each and every state and in many other countries:

  • Superintendents can assist their own local board to consider action to eliminate the shortages in their own school district.
  • Superintendents can meet with regional school directors, state school directors and help them define the ongoing crisis and show that little to no positive action has surfaced to date. 
  • Superintendents can help their own board leadership to meet with regional and state school board groups and share the same concerns.
  • Out of these meetings should come plans to push for action, i.e., open the new pipeline(s) that can and need to be opened.

Community Colleges:  What can they do?

The community and technical colleges are strategically located throughout every state and within driving distance of every K-12 school district.  These colleges presently draw in a significant number of dual-credit students from secondary school programs they already sponsor and support.  

These colleges also draw in hundreds of thousands of adults, many of who are limited to going only as far as a two-year Associate Degree.  A significant number of these residents in every community college district have families.  Many must work to support themselves and family. The lack the finances make it impossible for large numbers to go beyond the community college to a university.  

How can these community and technical colleges help solve the teacher shortages?

  • By being approved to offer the baccalaureate degrees in education they can draw students immediately into these programs from their existing first and second year students.
  • These colleges have a significantly higher number of students with diverse backgrounds which would greatly help fill the gap of diverse teachers needed for both rural and inner city students.
  • The costs for a baccalaureate degree in these colleges are significantly lower than at a senior university or college.  California presently has numerous baccalaureate degree offerings now in their community colleges. To date none have been approved in education.  These baccalaureate degrees presently offered have been identified as costing between $10,000 and $12,000 for the four year program. Compare that with the university costs in the sampling presented above.
  • Teachers at the community and technical colleges are required in most colleges to have master’s degrees in their field of teaching.  In addition, teachers in the secondary schools that teach in the dual-enrollment programs are also required to have the same degree level.

The time is now for superintendents to provide leadership to help create such a shift in the teacher preparation pipelines

We cannot continue to have the hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. K-12 system to go on without full-qualified and competent teachers. For example, 104,000+ New Mexico students did not have a qualified teacher for the last seven years. Other states do not have significant numbers of these non-qualified teachers and, therefore, add additional course work on their existing teachers!

Unless these problems are solved, the decline in the number of teachers being prepared in the U.S. and other countries will continue. Superintendents and their school board leaders are in the best position today to make these changes happen. This is the time those changes should happen and create a new teacher preparation pipeline.

The time is now to pull the cord to slow down and stop the tsunami of teacher shortages

We cannot continue to have hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. and other world countries in the K-12 school without qualified teachers.  School superintendents along with their governing boards need to take the leadership responsibility to end this crisis. The issue surrounding the teacher shortages is not new but has continued to get worse throughout the past decade.

Superintendents have many responsibilities on their plate.  None is greater than providing highly qualified teachers staffed in every one of their classrooms!  Without being able to accomplish this everything else they do is moot. This could well be the year that the shift in preparing teachers as has been proposed above can be done with strong leadership.  

The K-12 leadership, along with the cooperation of their community and technical colleges, offers a common sense way to stop the tsunami! 


*Tsunami: The authors compare the teacher shortages crisis now to reacting somewhat like a Tsunami.  Tsunamis have the following components:

  • Tsunami waves travel inland. They have been compared to traveling fast like jet planes. 
  •  The teacher shortage Tsunami has also been traveling across the country at a very fast pace.  This has become true in many countries across the world.

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