New Research Shows Teacher Shortage Growing Amid Pandemic

Just over half of 250,000 daily teacher absences were filled prior to pandemic; gap expected to grow when schools reopen

TROY, Mich., June 23, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. schools were able to fill just 54 percent of the approximately 250,000 teacher absences each day. As many schools reopen in the fall, they will face a growing number of teacher absences due to the pandemic, exacerbating the teacher shortage. Twelve percent of teachers say the pandemic may lead them to leave the profession even though they were not planning to do so before the crisis.

The Substitute Teacher Gap Post Covid-19
  A new, nationally representative survey from the EdWeek Research Center sheds light on substitute teacher recruitment and retention.


As district leaders look to fill classrooms, substitute teachers can bridge the gap, but key changes are needed to help recruit and retain substitutes as the demand for them increases in the era of school re-openings, according to a report from the EdWeek Research Center commissioned by Kelly Education.

“Prior to the pandemic, schools across the country were already facing the challenges associated with a teacher shortage,” said Nicola Soares, president of Kelly Education. “As COVID-19 causes teachers with health challenges to retire early and use more personal time, absences no doubt will increase, and substitute teaching will become an essential service to ensure students’ continued learning. It’s important that we champion substitute teacher services and recognize their important work.”

The new report analyzed trends based on a survey of more than 2,000 principals, district leaders and school board members. Fifty-six percent of respondents said their teacher absence rates are higher today than they were five years ago. While administrators cannot change the impact of a global pandemic, they can address other reasons for absences such as declining teacher morale, greater need for flexibility for work/life balance, and more professional development scheduled during school hours.

"These insights from the EdWeek Research Center are valuable because they represent the honest perspective of hundreds of K-12 administrators and school board members who are on the front lines of hiring, scheduling, and allocating substitute teachers for our nation's public schools," said Michele Givens, president and CEO of Education Week.

At the same time, 71 percent of administrators and school board members predict that the demand for substitute teachers will increase in the next five years.

While the economic downturn may temporarily make substitute teaching more attractive as unemployed Americans seek work, the situation is likely to change when the economy recovers. Changes are needed to help ensure a pipeline of substitute teacher talent. According to the report, potential solutions to increase the supply of substitute teachers include:

  • Raising substitute teacher pay – Survey respondents said they would need to offer at least 26 percent more to begin to make a difference, which will be challenging given budget realities.
  • Providing professional development opportunities that improve instructional ability and support classroom management skills to avoid burnout and stress resulting from difficulties with student behavior.
  • Implementing basic recruitment and retention tactics, from formally advertising the need for substitute teachers to offering incentives that encourage retention.
  • Investing in alternative credentialing programs that prepare districts’ students, parents, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers for teaching positions.

“It takes a village to educate students, especially during a time of crisis,” said Soares. “Investing in the growth and retention of substitute teachers can help us fuel a strong comeback and deliver the high-quality education our students deserve.”

For more information and to access the full report – The Substitute Teacher Gap: Recruitment and Retention Challenges in the Age of COVID-19 – visit

About Kelly Education
Kelly Education is moving education forward. As a specialty service of Kelly®, a global talent company that’s always asking what’s next in the world of work, we’re passionate about connecting talent to opportunity at every level from pre-K to higher education. Each year, more than four million classrooms across 40+ states are filled by a Kelly Education teacher or professor. Visit for more information.