Competing for K-12 Talent: Effective Strategies Amidst Teacher Shortages

By Jennifer Svendsen

The landscape of K-12 education is shifting rapidly, presenting a clear need to attract and retain talented educators. With burnout on the rise and teachers leaving the sector, Edgility believes it’s time to address and improve talent strategies in K-12 education.

On one hand, the demand for quality educators is higher than ever. On the other hand, the resources to attract talent are limited. However, it’s important to remember that compensation is just one piece of an equitable talent management puzzle. So, as a school leader, what strategies outside of competitive compensation can you employ to attract teachers who believe in your mission and will better serve your students?

The State of K-12 Education: Teacher Shortages and Beyond

Before we explore strategies, let’s paint a clear picture of the current state of K-12 education:

  • According to a report by the Learning Policy Institute, the United States faces a shortage of qualified teachers. Estimates suggest that the demand for new teachers could reach 300,000 by 2025.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics reports an average annual turnover rate of approximately 16% among public school teachers, with urban districts often experiencing even higher rates, sometimes reaching 20% or more.
  • Data from the National Education Association reveals that teacher salaries in some states have declined by $3,644, on average, over the past decade, adjusting for inflation.

These figures underscore the urgency of effective talent management in schools and the necessity to remain or become competitive in the labor market. Now, let’s explore strategies grounded in equity that can help school leaders rise to the occasion.

Equitable Strategies to Attract Teachers

  • Listen Actively to Staff: Conduct a Talent Equity Assessment

A critical step toward enhancing your school’s competitiveness for high-quality talent is to actively engage with your educators. We recommend conducting a Talent Equity Assessment, which empowers schools to listen to their staff’s voices and make changes based on the feedback that is received. By collecting their insights and feedback, you can learn what is important to your staff and make improvements that resonate with them. This approach not only will help you understand what about your organization is important to highlight to potential candidates, but it will also foster a sense of belonging and contribute to a collaborative, inclusive culture. When your staff feel engaged and heard, they’re more likely to recommend working at your school to other top-tier educators.

  • Nurture Career Pathways and Talent Pipelines

According to McKinsey & Company, “the opportunity for job growth or promotion is an even higher priority for frontline employees than pay or benefits alone,” and employers often do not prioritize this as much as employees value it. Schools that focus on creating clear career pathways that provide professional growth opportunities for educators are sure to have a competitive edge. Your school can start by incorporating job classifications and competency frameworks to ensure that emerging talent is cultivated and experienced educators are retained. This not only supports equitable talent management but also provides a clear path for career development within your organization.

  • Provide Clarity in Job Descriptions

Ensure that your job descriptions are clear, concise, and comprehensive by specifying expectations, responsibilities, the unique benefits of working at your school, and the position’s salary range. Prospective teachers should have a clear understanding of what the position entails, how it aligns with their career goals, and whether it works for them financially. 

Sharing salary ranges publicly indicates a great level of transparency within your organization. According to Teach Away, “While disclosing salaries may not always be the norm, the companies that do always stand out!” If you don’t feel comfortable sharing a salary range in a job description, that may indicate you have a less-than-equitable compensation structure. Get ahead of this concern by conducting a compensation study to ensure there are no wage gaps based on race, gender, or other factors at your school.

  • Foster a Welcoming Interview Process

Make the interview process a positive experience for candidates. Whether or not you end up hiring the candidate creating a warm, welcoming, and inclusive atmosphere where candidates feel welcomed and valued will help both sides. Creating a positive experience includes prompt communication, clear interview agendas, and an opportunity for candidates to ask questions and learn more about your school. We have a handy guide for this, here.

  • Showcase Your School’s Unique Culture and Mission

Emphasize what sets your school apart. Highlight your school’s unique culture, values, and mission by sharing tangible examples of how your leadership acts with equity; not just for your students, but for your staff as well. Great teachers are often drawn to institutions that align with their beliefs and aspirations. Share stories and testimonials that reflect the positive experiences of educators who have thrived within your school’s community.

Although these strategies are intended to help your school remain competitive in the current hiring landscape, they are not just good practices; they are vital to the sustainability of your school. This holistic approach will help you to ultimately engage with what we call the Total Value Proposition: a set of strategies to attract, engage, grow, assess, and reward talent. They will empower you to navigate the teacher shortage crisis effectively, attract top talent, and create a thriving learning environment for your students.

A Partner in the Process 

Competing for talent in K-12 education is a multifaceted challenge that requires innovative solutions. Edgility’s approach always starts with your people and is always grounded in equity. It enables us to help you tailor compensation strategies and talent management structures to your organization’s values. We believe your commitment to equitable talent management is not just a strategic move; it’s an investment in the future of education, and we’re passionate about helping you every step of the way. To learn more about how Edgility can assist your school in achieving excellence through effective talent management, please contact us. With the right strategies rooted in equity, your school will not only survive these challenges but thrive.


Meet the expert:

Jennifer Svendsen

  • Builds Equitable Organizations
  • Talent Management Support
  • Closes Wage Gaps

Put your values to work. Act on equity.

We believe equity isn’t a box to check. It’s a daily action. Someone’s unique identity isn’t something to overcome–when paired with the right opportunity, it becomes one of their greatest professional assets. We exist to empower social impact organizations to recognize and overcome unconscious bias, racism and sexism so they can build a workforce that reflects and strengthens the communities they serve.