Teacher shortage as a local phenomenon: District leader sensemaking, responses, and implications for policy
Keywords:teacher shortage, local, rural, qualitative, district leadership, sensemaking
While the teacher shortage is a national crisis, the manifestations of the shortage are felt most acutely at the local district level. The diversity of these micro-contexts often leads to disparities in the ways local school systems are served by large-scale initiatives. District leaders provide an important lens for understanding the localized manifestation of teacher shortages. This research contributes to the existing macro-level literature on teacher shortages through investigation of the ways in which district leaders in West Virginia make sense of and respond to the teacher shortage. As part of a broader study, we share analyses of interviews with seven district leaders across five county school districts and highlight the ways in which leaders made sense of the phenomenon in paradoxical ways, both in terms of the most salient causes as well as the perceived locus of control in addressing the teacher shortage. Findings also highlight the way district leader sensemaking led to action, with responses differing based on relative affordances of metropolitan versus rural contexts. We conclude with implications for policy and research to further understand the local nature of teacher shortages and to address the problem, particularly in rural contexts underserved by current research and policy.