Teacher Shortage Solutions: Augmenting Staff Vacancies With Tutoring


Districts nationwide are struggling to staff their schools. Research from Kansas State University shows that there are at least 36,500 vacant teaching positions. There are also 163,000 underqualified individuals filling teaching positions across the United States. Before we can even attempt to resolve this problem, we've got to understand what got us to this point.

Teacher shortages, as we know them, have been a national issue since 2015, when research began indicating a teacher-to-student ratio imbalance. Then, COVID-19 added fuel to the fire. The sudden shift to remote learning, along with health concerns and mounting stress, drove many teachers to consider quitting. In fact, one in four educators have contemplated leaving the profession entirely. Those who do stay face the burden of additional work. All while district leaders wonder how to improve teacher retention. 

In this post, we’ll explore the teacher shortage problem and why it matters. Plus, we’ll cover how high-impact tutoring can make a difference. Read on to learn how this method can help districts looking for teacher shortage solutions.

Causes (and effects) of the teacher shortage

Teacher shortages and the associated impact aren’t a new topic, but it’s increasingly concerning. Here’s what you should know about the causes of this shortage and the outcomes.

Long-standing issues 

The teacher shortage stems from a complex web of problems. Factors like low salaries, demanding hours, and high-stress environments can make teaching an unappealing profession to work in.

Educators often feel undervalued and overburdened. That leads to high teacher turnover rates. At the same time, fewer young people are entering the field. It's a perfect storm, making it difficult for schools to achieve high teacher retention rates. 

Consequences for students

The impact of the shortage on students is undeniable. Schools are forced to fill classrooms with underqualified teachers, which can compromise the quality of instruction. This is particularly challenging for high-need schools and subjects. 

Recent data shines a spotlight on the issue:

  • Average math scores for fourth and eighth graders decreased by 5 and 8 points, respectively, from 2019-2022.
  • On average, reading scores for fourth and eighth graders fell 3 points from 2019-2022.
  • In 2022, students were an average of 15-24 weeks behind in math and nine weeks behind in reading.

Class sizes also grow when fewer teachers are available, reducing the individual attention each child receives. As a result, academic performance suffers and it becomes harder for educators to do their best work.

Short-term solutions fall short

Unfortunately, many of the solutions that school districts are implementing to combat teacher shortages are short-term fixes that are creating long-term problems. 

Common responses to the teacher shortage, like doubling up classrooms, emergency certifications, and lower qualification standards, may temporarily fill teacher vacancies, but they don't address the root issues that are driving teachers away. What's more, they often lead to increased levels of teacher burnout and attrition in the long term.

Research shows that during and after COVID, educational inequities for our nation’s students also widened - wiping out 20 years of educational progress. Failing to find a more permanent fix will only increase the gap. 

Implementing the right teacher shortage solutions requires a strategic shift. In a time when all educators need to do more with less, districts have to find an effective and sustainable way to support staff and students. That’s where high-impact tutoring comes in.

What is high-impact tutoring?

According to the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University, high-impact tutoring is a form of educational support, which occurs 1:1 or in small groups, aimed at a specific goal. It's a research-backed, strategic approach that delivers powerful results supplementing classroom experiences. 

High-impact tutoring is characterized by several key traits:

  • Sessions last at least 30 minutes and occur three times a week
  • Strong relationship between student and tutor
  • Alignment with the classroom curriculum
  • Progress monitoring of student’s knowledge and skills
  • Oversight/coaching of tutors

Teacher shortage solutions: The role of high-impact tutoring

This form of tutoring can propel students forward by providing additional support. Take a closer look at some of the ways high-impact tutoring drives change.  

1. Personalized support

High-impact tutoring supplements classroom instruction with personalized 1:1 attention from consistent, well-trained tutors. An experienced academic design team creates lesson plans that target each student's unique learning gaps, as identified by assessment data and curriculum standards.

High-impact tutoring platforms, such as FEV Tutor, support a variety of learning style options so that each student can choose their preferred form of communication for learning — whether they are kinesthetic learners, auditory learners, or verbal learners. This individualized approach helps students grasp concepts more deeply and retain knowledge longer.

High-impact tutoring eases the pressure on educators. The result impacts everyone. Students thrive, teachers are less stressed, and classrooms become more joyful, productive learning environments.

2. Building confidence

One of the most significant advantages of virtual live 1:1 tutoring is its ability to rebuild a student’s confidence. Creating a strong relationship between the student and their tutor is one of the key factors that improves learning and assessment scores. 

When students understand the material and feel supported and understood by their tutor, they become more engaged and enthusiastic about learning — both in their tutoring sessions and in the classroom. This boost in self-confidence can cause a ripple effect on their academic performance and attitude. Teachers then thrive when they see their students succeeding. 

3. Bridging the learning gap

The pandemic's disruptions have left many students struggling to catch up. Experts estimate teachers would need to cover 150% of a typical year's material to get every child back to grade level — an impossible target and a heavy burden to place on teachers.

Targeted intervention during the school day is the missing piece of the puzzle. High-impact tutoring provides additional real-time 1:1 or small group feedback and adapts the topics and pace of learning to each student's needs.

Platforms like FEV Tutor provide the focused, skill-building support students need to bridge knowledge gaps. By accelerating learning for those furthest behind, tutoring levels the playing field. Students are more prepared to engage with classroom content, which makes teachers' lesson plans more effective across the board. That makes teachers' lives and jobs easier.

Ready to implement high-impact tutoring in your district?

For struggling students, personalized support and extra practice help them catch up and grow their confidence. High-impact tutoring can lead to better grades and increased enthusiasm for learning.

For teachers, high-impact tutoring removes some of the burden by helping students better grasp the classroom material. It also can give educators much-needed time for grading or lesson planning while students are working on their independent study. The result is higher job satisfaction and reduced teacher burnout.

High-impact tutoring is an essential strategy for closing learning gaps, promoting equity, and accelerating growth in student performance.