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Teacher Shortages: What's Going On?

Teacher Shortages: What's Going On?

Across the country, states are suffering from well-documented and very real teacher shortages that have districts and schools struggling to fill vacancies in the short time before the school year is set to begin. Teacher shortages are nothing new, and many are wondering what kind of change needs to be made in order to avoid another summer of coming up short.

The New York Times took a look at the current and dire situations in states and cities facing the worst of teacher shortages this season, calling what's going on a national "hiring scramble."

The crux of the problem, the article says, can be summed up as this:

"Across the country, districts are struggling with shortages of teachers, particularly in math, science and special education — a result of the layoffs of the recession years combined with an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers."

According to one educator for, a big issue with teacher shortages is the sensationalism that comes with it. Whereas tangible problems with hiring teachers do exist, Kevin Hufferman says that any talk about the teaching profession becoming less desirable does more harm than good.

Hufferman blames what he calls a false narrative on teacher shortages partly on anti-reform activists who "rely heavily on claims of unhappiness and turnover when arguing against modern reform policies." He also lays blame on a "data-free media trope,"a "social media sub-genre of 'take this job and shove it' letters from some angry teachers on their way out the door. Everyone loves a sticking-it-to-the-boss missive, and when these also cite education reform policies, the media is readily seduced."

An example of an article Hufferman might point the finger at: The Huffington Post's "Memo to the States" on how to fix teacher shortages that includes The How To Create A Teacher Shortage Recipe.

Ingredients include: 1 cup of rhetoric against teachers, 2 pounds of bills and programs that attempt to de-professionalize teaching, 3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers, and so and so forth.

But articles like this, Hufferman would say, do a disservice to the issue at hand by pinning teachers against the society they work in as well as failing to ever define what's wrong, therefore failing to arrive at what needs to change.

"We have plenty to figure out about teacher hiring, success, satisfaction and retention. But we don’t need false claims about widespread shortages to drive this discussion. We are going to have enough teachers. Let’s focus instead on whether they are the right teachers, teaching the right subjects, with the right pay, respect, and support," Hufferman said.

Certainly, as The New York Times pointed out, what is true is that teachers are not getting enough support and training in the face of shortages.

In particularly desperate districts, some schools "are even asking prospective teachers to train on the job, hiring novices still studying for their teaching credentials, with little, if any, classroom experience," the article said. Such is the case with many districts throughout California.

Other districts riddled with desperation are being forced to make similar quick decisions. According to The Times, recruiters in Oklahoma City have been forced to look overseas- as far as Puerto Rico and Spain- for prospective teachers. In North Carolina, superintendents are using community meetings as a forum to ask members of the communities to refer teachers to openings immediately.

There is no doubt that teacher shortages are a very real thing in many districts and even states in the country. But there is also no doubt that in order to find a solution- more research needs to be done to figure out how.

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor



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