Turning the Tide: A Strategic Plan to Address the Educator Shortage

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Data-informed Practices, Barriers, & Priorities

School divisions across the country continue to face challenges related to educator recruitment and retention.  Nationally, 40 percent of school division leaders and principals describe their current staff shortages as “severe” or “very severe,” according to a survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center.  Longstanding challenges such as low salaries and the financial burden of completing licensure requirements have become even more concerning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought increased levels of stress among educators, greater concerns over safety, and further financial strain related to the 2020 recession.

According to the 2021 Annual Report on the Condition of Needs of Public Schools in Virginia by the Virginia Board of Education, there were 1,063 unfilled teaching positions for the 2019-20 school year.  As of April 2023, the Staffing and Vacancy Report tool shows 3,573 teacher vacancies for the 2022-23 school year. It is important to note that the Staffing and Vacancy report is based on a new data collection tool (the Positions and Exits Collection), first implemented in 2021-2022, which expanded the vacancy data from previous years.

Recruitment and Retention Advisory Committee

In response to these concerns, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), surveyed its current programs and initiatives related to recruitment and retention and to articulate clear plans for moving forward.  In January of 2022, the Department of Teacher Education and Licensure formed the Recruitment and Retention Advisory Committee, with representatives from key stakeholders across all eight superintendent’s regions.  Members include parents, students, human capital professionals, teachers, principals, VDOE employees, higher education partners, community members, and more. 

The committee began by reviewing and discussing current efforts, such as more flexible licensure policies, offering hiring and retention funding for school divisions, awarding grants to help cover the cost of assessments, and offering scholarships to college students completing their student-teaching experience.  Although these efforts have been well received and greatly appreciated by recipients, successes are scattered across the Commonwealth, rather than united under one guiding initiative.  To the Advisory Committee, the need for a statewide strategic plan became more and more apparent.

Turning the Tide InfographicTurning the Tide: Addressing the Educator Shortage in Virginia  

Between January and August of 2022, the Advisory Committee worked diligently to develop this strategic plan, which they call, “Turning the Tide: Addressing the Educator Shortage in Virginia.”  The plan includes background on the shortage and provides recommendations for moving forward over the next three years.  These actions are guided by the below goals and strategies and align with Governor Youngkin's Executive Directive Number 3:


  • Goal 1: Reduce barriers for qualified individuals to enter the profession
  • Goal 2: Increase the number of candidates eligible to fill public school divisions’ hard-to-staff positions
  • Goal 3: Strengthen strategies to recruit and retain a diverse, highly-qualified educator workforce


  • Strategy 1: Implement policies and practices to make careers in education more attractive and attainable
  • Strategy 2: Implement programs and practices to recruit, support, and retain highly-qualified educators with an emphasis on critical shortage areas

It is hoped that this plan will be helpful to Virginia’s school divisions, institutions of higher education, VDOE employees, and other stakeholders committed to securing a diverse, highly-qualified educator workforce and contribute to fulfilling our shared vision of maximizing the potential of all learners. The complete strategic plan document will be available for download soon.

What is currently being done to address these challenges?

Although the “Turning the Tide” strategic plan offers a helpful review of recruitment and retention initiatives and a pathway forward, it is important to remember that the VDOE has been working with stakeholders to address the educator shortage for years.  Below are a few examples of the work already completed or in progress, organized into a few categories:


Numerous grants have been developed and offered.  Some are funded by American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III).  These grants are typically offered on an ad-hoc basis and will not necessarily be offered on a regular basis. Other funding programs have been funded by the Virginia General Assembly and may be offered more regularly.  Visit the Financial Support webpage for more information.  

As of April 2023, significant milestones related to these grants include the following: 

  • Grants amounting to 143K were awarded to incentivize divisions to develop teacher apprenticeship programs, through the Apprenticeship Implementation Grant.
  • Awards were issued to 110 college students enrolled in Virginia Educator Preparation Programs and completing their student teaching experiences during Fall 2022 and Spring 2023, with more to come.
  • As of April 2023, the VDOE had record of 444 school division employees having been served through the first cycle of the Recruitment and Retention Support Grant, which supports hiring bonuses and continuing education for teachers.  In a recent questionnaire, over 90% of those individuals reported that they were likely to return to their divisions for the 2023-24 school year.  A second cycle of the grant was announced in January 2023 and further allows for funds to be used for teacher retention bonuses as well. 
  • Hundreds of teachers have received hiring incentives amounting to $3.8 Million through the Recruitment Incentive for Public Education (RIPE)Grant.


Several policies have been established to provide greater flexibility to educators, including 2022 General Assembly House Bill 829, which expanded the types of licenses issued by the DPH that may be eligible for provisional licensure with a school counselor endorsement and 2021 House Bill 1776, which establishes a two-year extension of the renewable license for public school teachers with licenses set to expire in 2021.


The Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program offers scholarships to teacher candidates from in approved teacher education programs committed to teaching in critical shortage areas, in career and technical education, or high-needs area as determined by the Board of Education.  Established by the 1999 General Assembly House Bill 2710, the National Teacher Certification Incentive Reward Program and Fund established awards for teachers who obtain certification.


The Department of Teacher Education and Licensure continue to provide resources to divisions including trainings on the online licensure application portal and other topics related to licensure, access to weekly newsletters featuring important information and opportunities, and the use of a the new Virginia Educators Career Hub.  Additionally, the VDOE launched a marketing campaign in October 2022, featuring the new BecomeATeacher microsite, and has made marketing assets, such as posters and graphics, available to divisions and Institutions of Higher Education.