North Cook ISC Response to Report on Teacher Shortage
The Illinois Educator Shortage Study facilitated by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) reports that Illinois schools face a dire shortage of teachers and substitutes, the shortage is getting worse, and may last a few more years. Dr. Kevin Jauch, Regional Superintendent of Schools for North Cook County said, "While COVID may have exacerbated the teacher and substitute shortage, it is certainly not the cause. Nor will the end of COVID suddenly bring a resurgence of teacher applicants great enough to address the shortfall."
The North Cook Intermediate Service Center (ISC) / Regional Office of Education #5, located in Des Plaines, has taken steps to try to ameliorate the shortage and the lack of applicants pursuing state licenses.
Among the policy recommendations, IARSS recommends Illinois invest in all parts of the educator pipeline.
The North Cook ISC partners with several institutions of higher education to enhance the educator pipeline. For example, National Louis University students pursuing a master's degree in education may complete an internship or residency in select North Cook districts. Many North Cook schools also host student teachers from local universities and colleges.
Virtual Job Fair
A second policy recommendation involves expanding early pathways into the teaching profession.
For over a year, the North Cook ISC has provided an opportunity for prospective teachers to participate in a virtual job fair available through its website. This enables educators from across the U.S. to record a video version of their professional resume that can be shared with school districts in our region and is open to all educators, paraprofessionals/aides, and substitute teachers. District Human Resources leaders can then view potential candidates who created a virtual resume to initiate the hiring process. Essentially, it's a free opportunity for candidates to network with the 39 North Cook suburban school districts, while attracting new educators to the workforce. Job vacancies at all elementary and high school districts in the North Cook area are also posted on its website at www.ncisc.org/employment.
Short-Term Substitute Teacher Training
"We offer periodic training for individuals looking to become short-term substitute teachers. This training schedule is communicated to our partners at local universities with Education Programs and to Human Resources leaders in our North Cook districts to share with their school communities," said Jauch.
Short-term substitute teachers only need 1) 60 university/college credits in any content area; 2) the required three-hour training, offered by the North Cook ISC or other regional offices for a nominal fee of $25; and 3) a short-term substitute license with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for $25. The North Cook ISC's three-hour training session is conducted virtually, making it easier for participants to attend.
Invest in School Leaders
A third policy recommendation from the IARSS report is to invest in school leaders who play a pivotal role with school working conditions that impact teacher recruitment and retention.
"The North Cook ISC supports new principals and assistant principals with its long-standing mentor program. This year, there are fourteen first-year principals or assistant principals and seven second-year administrators participating in our program," said Jauch. "It goes back to the pipeline again, from district superintendents, to school principals, to support staff, and ultimately to classroom teachers. COVID aside, we all play an integral role in providing a quality educational experience for students," he added.
In the long term, however, Jauch believes we must break down barriers for students considering a future in education and highlight the many benefits of a career in this field. "We need to make it more affordable for college students to pursue a career in education by lowering the cost of these programs and/or offering more scholarships," he said.
Another barrier is challenging licensure restrictions in the state of Illinois. "More flexibility within our State's licensure system for people who already hold a professional educator license (PEL) and lowering costs to apply and renew licenses may also prove beneficial," said Jauch.
Dr. Jauch noted that North Cook schools have had to combine or cancel classes, convert others to online, or take an adaptive pause district-wide because of insufficient staff. "We know that a few superintendents returned to the classroom to teach when there was no one else available for students. North Cook districts, like others across the State, have implemented a variety of innovative ideas to staff classrooms with qualified educators," he added.