Considering New Teacher Staffing Models

October 08, 2020 • Cheryl Hoover

Considering New Teacher Staffing Models

A new report by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) predicts the teacher staffing shortage will worsen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring school leaders to get creative and consider new staffing models.

Teacher shortages and turnover

Teacher shortages already existed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, special education, bilingual education, and other specialties before the pandemic. These shortages aren’t going away and could get worse given many teachers’ concerns about returning to school.

The pre-pandemic teacher turnover was about 16 percent, but in some districts, it was much higher this year due to teacher concerns with safe working conditions, low salary, and lack of administrative support. National surveys show that a significant percentage of teachers were reluctant to return to school this fall. Thirty-two percent of teachers reported in August they are likely to leave their jobs this year even though they were unlikely to do so before the pandemic. And, unfortunately, surveys show teacher morale continues to decline.

New skills required

When schools moved to remote and hybrid instructional learning models, teachers had to scramble to learn new skills, such as how to compact the curriculum, adjust lessons, use online resources, and engage students remotely.

Some teachers became leaders in technology, remote learning, mentoring, coaching, data analysis, curriculum, and assessment. Now is an ideal time to consider new staffing models in order to take advantage of teachers learning new instructional skills, better meet the needs of students, and deal with teacher shortages.

Different staffing models

Lynn Holdheide, senior advisor of the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, states, “This is a great chance to rethink how technology is used by high-quality teachers and to address shortage areas.” She describes a staffing model that could be implemented in which an effective teacher teaches multiple classrooms through virtual learning formats. This model allows the most effective teachers to provide the initial instruction to a large number of students virtually with paraprofessionals and other staff providing additional support throughout the lessons.

An innovative staffing model is being implemented at the Opportunity Culture initiative of Public Impact, a partner of AIR’s Center on Great Teachers and Leaders. In this model, a highly experienced and effective teacher leads the learning experience for a group of 50 students in-person instead of the typical class size of 25 students. A team of less experienced teachers and teaching assistants support the learning activities that the lead teacher develops and guides. This model provides support to new teachers, increasing the likelihood that they’ll stay and thrive in the teaching profession while allowing more students access to a great teacher. A study of this initiative by AIR shows large student learning gains.

Building instructional teams based on each teacher’s strengths is another staffing model to consider. Teachers become leaders in different areas such as instruction, curriculum, technology integration, data analysis and more. This model designs intentional learning experiences for students while using the strengths of the teaching staff.

Another differentiated staffing model groups an experienced and effective teacher with a small, collaborative team of teachers in the same grade or subject. The multi-classroom leaders use student data to help the team of teachers prepare for instruction, evaluate each student’s progress, and make adjustments similar to the processes of a professional learning community (PLC). Teaching roles are assigned based on individual strengths.

Benefits of new staffing models

Considering these and other nontraditional staffing models would allow effective teachers to impact more students, provide support to new teachers, and possibly increase morale. It could also contribute to retaining effective teachers who want the opportunity to move into leadership roles without having to leave the classroom. And, new staffing models may resolve some of the staffing challenges districts are facing now and in the future.

For more information on the topic, check out the AIR article, “Addressing Teacher Shortages with Differentiated Staffing Models”.


Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at cheryl.hoover@tasb.org.


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Tagged: HR, Retention, Staffing, "Teacher shortage"