Teacher shortages were a serious concern when the school year began. Rightly so, it seems, as some districts have had to close schools for single days recently due to a lack of teachers and substitutes.

According to a recent K-12 Dive report, a data analysis from 20 districts revealed that 18 of them lacked enough teachers to staff classrooms, leaving thousands of students at a disadvantage. Los Angeles Unified School District had 500 teacher vacancies when the school year started. Memphis hit a five-year high with 200 openings.

Add to that a Learning Policy Institute report issued in March that predicted an increase in teacher resignations and retirements this year, a trend many California districts are seeing first hand. The report expected more severe shortages in rural districts and in the fields of math and science. It also pointed out teacher license testing policies and inadequate financial aid to complete preparation programs as contributing to the problem.

Among the suggested solutions are improving retention through teacher residency programs, which would make the profession more affordable and attainable. And California’s Golden State Teacher Grant Program has also been pointed to as an example of how financial supports could help to recruit and retain new teachers.

But Stephanie Burroughs, a K-12 curriculum leader and administrator in Massachusetts, has some other ideas, as she shared in an article for ASCD.

She says higher value must be placed on teachers to improve retention as shortages deepen amid the COVID-19 pandemic and suggests building prep and grading time into teachers’ schedules, especially now that pressures created by the pandemic have dramatically increased the length of educators’ workdays.

Another retention tool is to guarantee teachers’ student loan debt is forgiven if they stay with a district a certain amount of time.

To help alleviate bus driver shortages, Burroughs suggests offering hiring bonuses, lengthier breaks and overtime for drivers who work both morning and afternoon shifts. Likewise, to attract and retain substitute teachers, she recommends rethinking how they are hired and used, with long-term substitutes potentially eligible for higher pay rates and regular work that provides predictable employment.

Ultimately, quick fixes won’t be enough to solve educator shortages, Burroughs said. For the long term, she advocates reinventing how education is valued and increasing pay accordingly, adding that district leaders should demand budget increases to better compensate teachers and staff.