Teacher shortage as a local phenomenon: District leader sensemaking, responses, and implications for policy





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. 


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Author Biographies

Erin McHenry-Sorber, West Virginia University

Erin McHenry-Sorber, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in Higher Education Administration at West Virginia University. Her research focuses on rural schools and communities, including rural educational leadership, the influence of policies, power structures, and demographic shifts on school-community relationships and gendered experiences, and rural teacher labor movements. 

Matthew P. Campbell, West Virginia University

Matthew P. Campbell, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of mathematics education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies at WVU. His research is focused in the area of teacher education, with particular attention to the preparation and professional education of secondary mathematics teachers. This includes investigation of innovative and transformative policies and programmatic pathways that support the recruitment, preparation, retention, and continued support of teachers, particularly in rural contexts. 




How to Cite

McHenry-Sorber, E., & Campbell, M. P. (2019). Teacher shortage as a local phenomenon: District leader sensemaking, responses, and implications for policy. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 87. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.4413