The United States is facing its first major teacher shortage since the 1990s, one that could develop into a crisis for schools in many parts of the country, according to a new study by the Learning Policy Institute, an education think tank.
The shortfall is a result of increased demand for teachers as schools reinstate classes and programs axed during the Great Recession. It has been compounded by a dramatic decrease in the supply of new teachers entering the profession. Enrollment in teacher-preparation programs dropped from 691,000 in 2009 to 451,000 in 2014, a 35 percent decline, according to the study, “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand and Shortages in the U.S.”
“Our analysis estimates that U.S. classrooms were short approximately 60,000 teachers last year,” Leib Sutcher, the study’s co-author, told reporters Tuesday ahead of the study’s release. “Unless we can shift these trends, annual teacher shortages could increase to over 100,000 teachers by 2018 and remain close to that level thereafter.”
The impact of the teacher shortage on students, according to the study’s authors, will be schools having to cancel courses, increase class sizes and teacher-pupil ratios, or hire underprepared teachers.
Although nearly every state has reported teacher shortages to the U.S. Department of Education, the problem is much more pronounced in some states than others. But across the country, the shortages are disproportionately felt in special education, math and science, and in bilingual and English-language education.
Regardless of the state, students in high-poverty and high-minority schools are typically hit hardest when there are teacher shortages. In 2014, on average, less than one percent of teachers were uncertified in low-minority schools, while four times as many were uncertified in high-minority schools, the study showed.
Teacher attrition — the number of teachers leaving the profession for a variety of reasons — remains high and is the single-biggest contributor to the shortage, according to the report. Nearly two-thirds of the teachers who leave the profession do so before retirement age and cite dissatisfaction with their job as the reason. Addressing the job-dissatisfaction issues could help avert a teacher crisis.
“In times of shortage, policymakers often focus attention on how to get more teachers into the profession, but it’s equally important to focus on how to keep the teachers we do have,” Sutcher said. “Reducing attrition in half, from eight percent to four percent, would virtually eliminate overall shortages.”
SOURCE: Joe Heim
The Washington Post