Research group: ‘Teacher shortage’ more nuanced than people think

A new report from a Washington, D.C.-based think tank says there are plenty of teachers — they’re just not certifying in high-need areas.

The National Council on Teacher Quality‘s “What school districts can do to tackle teacher shortages” underscores the difficulties schools across the nation face when trying to staff teachers.

However, the nationwide “teacher shortage” is much more nuanced than typically reported, the report says.

One nuance is that the number of teacher graduates is growing. A nationwide study cited within the NCTQ’s report shows that there were over 3.8 million public school teachers in 2015-16 — an increase of some 400,000, or 13 percent, over the previous four years.

Yet only about half of these graduates fill a teaching job on any given year.

“One reason is that teacher prep programs generally produce about twice as many education graduates as schools are hiring,” the report says.

Large numbers of largely unneeded elementary teachers mixed with a lingering shortage of high-need STEM and special education graduates compound a “chronic misalignment” in today’s teacher labor market, the report says.

The State Department of Education’s latest breakdown of teacher-education certifications suggests similar trends in Idaho — at least in terms of those qualifying in elementary education and the state’s high-need STEM areas.

In 2018, just 14 percent of the state’s teacher-education graduates certified in the STEM content areas — compared to the over 44 percent who received an elementary-education certificate.

The misalignment “does not negate” the difficulties of hiring teachers, the report adds, especially in rural and urban school districts and schools with higher proportions of minority students.

The NCTQ provided several suggestions aimed at helping schools, states and teacher-prep programs minimize the problem:

  • Offer higher compensation for the schools and subjects that are hardest to staff.
  • Start the hiring process earlier.
  • Build better data systems.
  • Host student teachers who will fulfill schools’ recruitment needs.

Click here for the NCTQ’s full report.

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