Illinois had 4,120 unfilled positions in 2021. Teacher shortages in Illinois are not new, and they are not going away. The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents says, "86% of superintendents surveyed said they thought teacher shortages will remain a problem into the 2022-2023 school year. Districts are struggling to fill vacancies. The study indicates the teacher shortage led to more than 250 classes in schools across the state being canceled," which causes educational disparities throughout the state. One district has found a way to continue to connect its students to the expert teachers they deserve.
Filling Teacher Vacancies
Posen-Robbins Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Anthony Edison, describes the district’s fruitful relationship with Proximity Learning. Dr. Edison explains how his Illinois school district has “been with Proximity Learning for six years. The company has been very useful for our needs for filling hard-to-fill positions or if we have openings that pop up, they really fill the gap to help us get quality teachers into the classrooms to keep us running. This year we have about 30 students in Proximity classes. Over the past six years, I’d say over 200-250 students have been impacted.”
“As we all know, there is a nationwide teacher shortage. It affects some districts a lot more than others, so we’ve been dealing with some of those issues for a while. [...] We have used Proximity Learning to cover those voids and to assist us in our overall staffing. It’s been successful which is why we keep coming back to it.”
“Without Proximity, we would probably have one teacher teach multiple classes - teaching in one classroom and broadcasting to other classrooms. The other alternative is a long-term substitute, which is something that we would prefer not to do, but that’s one of the only options that we would have. The other issue is there is a substitute shortage, so we would have to deal with that as well.” Posen-Robbins has already started looking into filling summer and fall vacancies with the support of Proximity Learning.
Posen-Robbins was weary of using an outside vendor because they were unsure about the academic outcomes and social perception. Over the years, they have found consistent success in the classrooms as well as positive student feedback that has fueled the partnership.
“One of the things that we use for measuring outcomes is NWEA. We do three assessments throughout the year. We use that as our in-house assessment for all students. One of the things that we found is that our students who are being instructed through Proximity Learning are performing equally as well as students who are in the traditional classroom. That’s been pretty consistent throughout the six years. That was one of the concerns that we had at first in bringing in this type of resource, but it’s been very very consistent. We’ve been pleased with what we’ve received so far.”
“We’ve gotten great feedback. Our students enjoy it. Students like their teachers and the interaction they have with them. It was also an easy transition when we had to shut down through the pandemic. A lot of our students had already been receiving that online remote training, so that helped us out a whole lot. We keep coming back because it’s been working for us.”
“I think this early exposure to this type of remote learning, since remote learning is something that now will be more of a staple in instruction with high schools and colleges, I think it gives our students a leg up on that type of instructional delivery.”
Advice For District Leaders
School leadership demands creativity and innovation to meet the changing needs of students and faculty. “We have to be more creative as district leaders and leaders of children. We have to be more creative in the delivery method that is being used and in finding ways to fill voids of lack of staff. I would encourage them to take a look at Proximity Learning and see what they think about it. For us, Proximity has been very flexible, so they’ve been easy to work with. It’s been affordable for us to use. It’s been a very very good resource. I would definitely encourage anyone who is having similar issues as we are, and I’m assuming most school districts are, to take a strong look and have that as a resource.”
“We’ve had a great experience with Proximity Learning. The goal is not to use any outside sources, but under the circumstances, we know that there always will be situations where we will have to. Proximity Learning will always be our first choice.”