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The Arts Educator Workforce

Date: 17 April 2024

Addressing the arts educator workforce requires an acknowledgement of the multifaceted challenges that are tethered to it, such as turnover, accessibility and funding. This year, the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) began collecting information on improving the preparation, recruitment, development and retention of arts educators in hard to staff schools and areas experiencing teacher shortages. This project will be focusing on information that could be promising for the states identified by the U.S. Department of Education as arts teacher shortage states.

Graphic of the U.S. map in orange with specific states highlighted. The highlighted states are: Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia.

The upcoming resource will include available programs, promising initiatives, successful practices and policies in the areas of recruitment, preparation, development and retention happening around the country. In my role at Arts Education Partnership, it is my passion to help pre-service, early career and veteran teachers understand the challenges and available supports so they can make informed decisions for themselves. As a licensed visual arts educator who worked in public education, there are many things I am learning about to improve the teacher workforce that I would have loved to share with my pre-service self.

The success of early career teachers starts at the beginning of their teacher-preparation journeys. The effective pathways for pre-service teachers have a large influence on the longevity of their careers and student achievement. Other considerations for teacher preparation and retainment also include the licensure requirements in the state. Currently, 10 states do not have licensure requirements for arts teachers. Licensure requirements place trained arts teachers into the classrooms. However, licensure requirements can also pose barriers for people who cannot work without pay to support their families or cannot pass the standardized test to achieve licensure. I graduated from a traditional student teacher program. As a student teacher, I assumed the only option for attaining my teaching license was through a traditional student-teacher pathway, but I later found other options exist. Fast-track programs or teacher residencies also have large effects on the preparation and retainment of early-career teachers. Teachers who utilize a fast-track program are more likely to leave the profession in the first three years; less than half of teachers from local fast-track programs will remain in the teaching profession compared to 93% of participants from a teacher residency program.

In conversations with AEP, early career teachers have expressed their need for more support. Teachers are arriving to their first-year jobs underprepared and lacking support in the form of mentors, community and administrative support. On the other end of the spectrum, conversations brought forth that overworked veteran teachers don’t feel able and willing to take on the role of training student teachers or mentoring new teachers as they are overwhelmed with their own work. This dynamic is illuminated by teacher shortages that have been a problem for over a decade. The number of “leavers” – or teachers who left the profession – remains around 8.0% for public schools since 2004. According to the 2020 D.C. Teacher Attrition Survey, the higher percentages for leaving were focused around the lack of support from administration to address challenges, lack of respect from school and/or local education agency (LEA) administration, and general workload being too high.

AEP will continue to collect and disseminate information on state efforts to improve arts teacher recruitment, preparation, development and retention. AEP will create a webpage to host the resources gathered. We will launch this living resource in July of 2024. We are interested in reporting on promising pathways for arts teachers, benefit incentives, arts-specific professional development and support, and growth opportunities within the profession. If you are interested in sharing your experience, research or resources with us please contact Mitra Chamanbahar at

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits