The pandemic's impact on Arizona's teacher workforce

Posted at 10:00 AM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 21:50:54-04

State education leaders are calling it "the first comprehensive picture of Arizona's teacher and certificated staff workforce." A new report released by the Arizona Department of Education Wednesday is shedding light on the status of the teacher workforce in our state, and the pandemic's impact heading into the 2021-2022 school year.

READ MORE: The Teacher Workforce in 2021

Data analyzed from January 2020 and January 2021 show the number of teachers in Arizona did not change significantly, so "there was not a mass exodus due to retirements and resignations as some predicted." It also shows the average age and experience level remained unchanged, "indicating there was not a massive outflow of experienced teachers and an influx of young, new teachers."

Where teachers worked did change year over year. District schools saw a slight decline in the number of teachers, while charter schools saw a nearly 14% increase and online schools saw a 136% increase.

Also, the number of certain types of teachers changed, with fewer reading interventionists, bilingual and elective teachers heading into this school year. The number of emergency substitutes, emergency teachers, and international teachers were also down.

There was, however, a nearly 17% increase in the number of non-certified teachers, which the report says almost exclusively teach in charter schools.

A Snapshot of the Arizona Teacher Workforce

The following are key findings from the "Arizona Teacher Workforce" report:

  • Almost 60,000 teachers are working in Arizona classrooms, with most working in traditional schools
  • There are nearly 35,000 people with an active teaching certificate but have never taught in Arizona
  • Schools serving low-income families have more inexperienced and alternatively certified teachers
  • Many non-certified teachers are working in charter schools
  • The teacher shortage may impact one in every twenty classrooms
  • Teacher and student ethnicity largely do not match
  • Women dominate teaching, except in high school social studies
  • Many teachers leave in the first few years

Student snapshot

As districts across the state deal with declining enrollment, the report shows charter schools continue seeing an increase. There were around 38,000 fewer students in school in October 2020 compared to October 2019.

In 2020, districts had around 55,000 fewer students, while charters had more than 18,000 more students.

Potential impact on Arizona students

While the number of teachers did not change much from 2020 to 2021, concerns surrounding a future wave of retirements, resignations, or even potential layoffs once the economy picks up, still linger. The findings also suggest that online instruction is likely here to stay, given the "almost universal exposure" to this type of learning.

The report analyzed data from the Teacher Input Application (TIA) database, which is maintained by the Arizona Department of Education. While some teachers are not included, 96 percent of local education agencies participate.