Report raises questions about whether teacher shortage is real

Aug. 13, 2015 Tucker: Gloria Watson helps an 8th grade student at Tucker Middle School with a class assignment. Watson, a retired teacher, was substituting at the DeKalb County middle school. Several schools started the school year without full-time teachers in place. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

By Ty Tagami

Georgia teacher prep colleges were reporting fewer students a couple of years ago. As if to confirm a crisis, metro Atlanta school districts started the school year with vacancies.

Couple similar situations in other states with national trend lines showing high school students disinterested in a teaching career, and the alarms started ringing for school administrators.

Eleven states, Georgia not among them, assembled task forces to examine the teacher pipeline, and a new report from the Education Commission of the States provides the details about their findings. It also says the alarm bells may be ringing a little too loudly.

“There is no doubt teacher shortages have plagued the minds of education leaders across the states,” says the report, “Teacher Shortages: What We Know.” Yet teacher turnover has been “fairly stable” over the past decade and schools have lower vacancy rates now than in 2000. “To date, evidence is insufficient to support claims of an increasing teacher shortage on a national level,” says the commission, which was founded decades ago by an interstate compact approved by Congress.

Teacher turnover and surveys about the declining desirability of the profession have become data points for lively policy discussions. Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission had a whole committee devoted to teacher recruitment and retention. Last week, Deal signed Senate Bill 364, which backed off the use of student test results to score teachers, something teachers have been complaining about for years.

Nationally, enrollment in teacher prep programs declined by about a third from 2008-09 to 2013-14, according to the report. “Of those who do enter the profession, many go on to report overall job dissatisfaction, a loss of autonomy, and limitations in feedback, recognition, advancement and reward.”

So is there a shortage or isn’t there? Well, that depends in part on where you are. The commission didn’t look at individual states but notes that state policies can drive localized teacher shortages. They are also more likely in difficult schools in unsafe neighborhoods or in tough subjects like math or science.

The report offers the ideas that other states developed to address the looming shortage, if it is indeed coming.

Reader Comments 0

19 comments
AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

In a profession where 1/2 of new entrants leave after 5 years, worrying about how many new education majors there are is like adding turning your faucet up higher so you can fill up a bucket with a hole in its bottom.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Based on how much more math people can make doing other jobs which are also much easier than teaching, I am convinced math teacher shortage is real and permanent.

jerryeads
jerryeads

I should add that indeed teacher turnover varies RADICALLY across schools and districts. While the loss rates overall were on the order of 9-11% per year, the loss and mobility (teachers escaping to another school or district) ranged from something like 5% to 30%. Per year. Imagine a school in which a third of the teachers turned over. Every year. Maybe we should pay more attention to school leadership?

jerryeads
jerryeads

I of course watched the retention/loss trends closely while I was downtown - I was always rather amazed that I was apparently the only one anywhere who did so given the quite adequate quality of the annual educator data collection across the state. I've always kicked myself for not having seen the 2008 crash coming - in hindsight it was obvious from the data. Teacher retention/loss was fairly stable until then, but with the economic crash we went from on the order of 119,000 teachers in '08 to 112,000 a few years later - while, of course, student enrollment continued to skyrocket. We laid off teachers by the thousands and, of course, many thousands more took enormous cuts in pay with the drastically shortened school years. There were districts that had to cut to 140 (from 180) days. It just doesn't take rocket science to figure out that there are smart people in college who figure out that teaching doesn't have the security we once thought. On top of that, the halfwits downtown and in DC continued to do their very level best to make sure the job of teaching got worse - If you're preparing kids for some egregiously badly made tests for a third of the year, and you're testing another third of the year, what's that leave? If you love kids, and love teaching, who the hell would ever want to do test prep and admin for 2/3 of your time? The truly amazing phenomenon is that people wonder why we have - and will have - a teacher shortage. The best leave first. Because they can. The tiny reduction in testing weight for teacher evaluation was a baby step back toward making the profession something that someone with talent might want to do. But we have a rather long way to go.

Yunior Reyes
Yunior Reyes

AJC hi all..AJC. , If u answer these, prove u r intelligent, try now... 💋 click here --> #wwwhplaycomv02 ... What does that matter being black owned... Thank by: Is there a shortage or isn’t there? Well, that depends in part on where you are.Breaking news, watchdog journalism and everything in between. If Atlanta is talking about it, the AJC has the story.

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

I wonder how the class-size waivers affect this analysis. Were the researchers basing their conclusions on a pre-recession class size, or were they using the waiver class-size. The difference in a 30 pupil maximum class and a 38 or 40 pupil class would impact this significantly, I believe.  

Legong
Legong

The article begins by exploding the myth there are teacher shortages, only to reverse itself by deploying the same old smoke and mirrors long familiar to readers of this newspaper column: including a grab bag of unthruths some in the education establishment turn to each time parents and taxpayers threaten reform.

If nearly every reader didn't personally know three or more individuals hoping to land a position with the local school district such myths might prosper.

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

I believe there is a teacher shortage.  As a fully-vested retired teacher, why would anyone want to teach in the current environment?  Whenever, I was told by one of my students that they wanted to teach, the first thing I did was try to talk them out of it.  If they stubbornly refused my advice, I figured they might have a chance to survive it, because in many cases, it has become a brutal profession.  

redweather
redweather

"Nationally, enrollment in teacher prep programs declined by about a third from 2008-09 to 2013-14, according to the report."

That's a steep decline. At least two ways of looking at this. If there is no shortage, then maybe the decline is a product of supply and demand. In other words, too many students were entering teacher prep programs. On the other hand, a shortage may be coming.  

oh Pleese
oh Pleese

@redweather If you watch the job  posting sites for Georgia and the surrounding states like I do you note that most of the jobs available are in Math, Science and Special Ed.  I have been to a couple of job fairs recently and there are PLENTY of teachers attending and jobs in Elementary Ed, Social Studies, English and PE are quite competitive.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

There isn't, and never will be, a shortage of teachers.  What we have a HUGE shortage of is outstanding teachers.  


And that's unfortunately a natural result of our "pay everyone the same based on seniority/advanced degrees" system.  Our best teachers know they are working harder, and delivering more value than the average teachers (and WAY more than the awful ones), but that they make the same amount of money.   Over time, that saps the desire and will of these outstanding teachers.


And since they are outstanding, they have the ability to leave and get jobs elsewhere, that truly reward them financially for what they do.


We have got to find a way to recognize and reward these teachers.  Otherwise we will simply be left with those who couldn't find a job anywhere else.  

Starik
Starik

@dcdcdc Yes.  When the schools in New Orleans got rid of bad teachers the complaint was that it destroyed the black middle class.

ellie72975
ellie72975

Yeah, I'm really glad I wasted one of my four free monthly reads on that useless article.



Astropig
Astropig

@ellie72975


You didn't have to do that. Some of us have been skeptical of the whole "teacher shortage" shuck and jive for (literally) years.Mike Antonucci over at EIA has an entire string of pieces that he has done to debunk this education legend. It's worth a visit and all it will cost you is your time!


http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/?s=teacher+shortage