Is there a teacher shortage in the US?

Inspired by this thread.

I’ve recently been reading a teachers’ chatboard, and it would appear from the posts there that there is no real shortage of teachers in the U.S. Others, in the thread referenced above, believe that there is a shortage.

I’m considering getting certified to teach, and so I have more than a little interest in this question.

(Mods, please move this if I’ve put it in the wrong place, thanks.)

There is, though it depends in part on where in the country you live and at what level you want to teach. As has often been the case, poor and inner-city schools are experiencing the biggest shortage; wealthier communities tend to have a glut of applicants. Apparently, all levels are being affected, but there is a strong need for teachers from elementary through high school and with degrees in math, science, foreign languages, and English as a Second Language. However, the forecast for college instructors is pretty rosy, especially those in the humanities, as huge numbers of Baby Boomers are retiring and community colleges are growing significantly. (The bad news is that universities are stagnating or shrinking.) Of course salaries in general aren’t keeping pace with the sharp rises in housing and other costs, so while the job market is improving for teachers, the money ain’t.

I’m not going to dig up the cites right now, but the last time I checked (a few months ago, the last time the board had an argument about this) there was a continuing net shortage of teachers.

That did not mean there was a shortage of all types of teachers at all levels for all schools, only that fewer people were available than open slots.

Special Ed teachers are always in short supply, as are qualified teachers for the really lousy inner-city districts. The number of science/math teachers rises and falls with the overall job market in other fields.

On the other hand, most suburban districts don’t have any trouble finding all the English teachers they could ask for.

I’m not going to dig up the cites right now, but the last time I checked (a few months ago, the last time the board had an argument about this) there was a continuing net shortage of teachers.

My apologies; I should have done a search here before asking the question.

What is perhaps more relevant - my view, anyway - is not if there is a shortage of generic teachers (a school system, in my view, can always use one more good worker) but what shortages exist and where, and what shortages are predicted and when.

Take a look at the percent of grade school teachers close to retirement (say, 5-10 years). Take a look at the number of teachers being licensed every year. My understanding - and I don’t have the numbers bookmarked - is that the gap is not exactly closing hard and fast. Then you have fields such as math and science and special education (especially as you get into the more restrictive environments, where you sometimes need more than a degree in education), where what you often have are not so much teachers with competent background in things like matrices and differential equations but folks who can lecture competently from the text and fulfill the needs of your average (i.e., not most of us, depending on the subject) student.

Then look at where you went to high school, those of you who have a particular skill with one subject. Are those teachers all competent? Are they good, or are they great? Are they good enough, or are they … not? I was lucky. A lot of other people aren’t.

The shortage isn’t just in terms of warm bodies getting paid every two weeks. It’s in terms of people with gifted minds who also have gifts for teaching and actually end up teaching. That’s a shortage, translating across fields, I’d argue we have in many areas other than teaching.

Teachers usually get paid monthly. :smiley:

A lot of people are eschewing teaching for more reasons that just the money, even though most of them could command better salaries in business and industry, and that is a significant draw. A big reason friends of mine are leaving the field is that they are simply fed up with so many obnoxious kids coming into the classroom with an overinflated sense of ability while demonstrating an underwhelming level of performance.

Why? There’s lots of speculation. For instance, there’s a significant effort right now to return education to a kind of 1950s model of rote memorization, with subjects being taught not so much to increase students’ skills and intellectual prowess but to perform well on standardized tests that purport to measure their progress.

At the same time, some of those tests are being “renormed,” which is basically code for “curved”–I was told that to compare my results on the SAT from 17 years ago to that today, for instance, I should add 200 points to my score. That would put me above the 1600 mark. There is a lot of political pressure to show that, on paper at least, students are improving–and school districts don’t want to be faced with budget cuts, angry parents, and public embarassment when their kids aren’t getting high grades and high scores.

Nowadays, a “C” is not viewed as average, the true definition of the grade, but as failing. Everyone expects to receive an “A” or “B,” even though by definition, most should receive a “C.” Kids are taught by either aggressive parents or by surrogates, like television and peers, that getting what they want is the only important thing, and if that means cheating or complaining, they’re prepared to do so.

Of course, all of this is leading to a generation of kids who’ve been told they’re all above average, enjoyed inflated grades, and grew up at least partly in the roaring 90s, when economic times were good, jobs were plentiful, and it wasn’t all that hard to make a living.

Add broken homes, neglectful parents, school violence, and dwindling resources, and many smart people are deciding it just isn’t worth it. There are many, many fine people who still choose to go into teaching, but if faced with making 35K a year to put up with all of that or doubling one’s salary in other pursuits, many are choosing the latter.

Gassy Man writes:

> . . . I should add 200 points to my score.

This is wildly overstated. Furthermore, what happened when the SAT was renormed was not just a matter of the test being “curved.” What happened was the following: When the SAT, in its modern form, was created (in 1941, as I recall), the first year they designed the scoring so that in that in that year the average on the math and verbal sections would each be 500. In effect, the scores were curved in that year, in that it was set up so that the scores would be a normal curve that year. Now, they could have just each year from then on did the same thing. They could have scored the test so that each year from then on the test would always have average scores of 500 on the math and verbal sections.

Instead, they did something else. In its first year, there were only about 10,000 students taking the SAT, and they were only the ones applying to two or three dozen of the most selective colleges in the U.S. Over the past 50 or so years though, the SAT has become more and more popular. A couple of million students now take it each year, and they are the ones applying to a wide range of colleges. On average, the students taking the SAT this year obviously aren’t as good as the students taking the SAT in 1941, since the students taking the SAT in 1941 were just those that were applying to the most selective colleges (since only those colleges asked for the SAT), while the students taking the SAT this year are those applying to everything from the most selective of colleges all the way down to those applying to local community colleges (since now nearly every college insists on either the SAT or the ACT). So what the SAT people did instead was to fix the scores each year so that if the group of students from the first year had taken the test in any given year, they would also score 500 on each of the math and verbal sections. But since the initial very selective group would have had the same scores, the group that actually takes the test, who are now a much larger and much less selective group, will get lower scores each year.

That does not mean that students are any less intelligent or less prepared for college. It’s hard to compare students taking the test today with students who took it at the beginning, since they are such different groups. However, supposed we look over the years just at those students who applied to those two or three dozen top colleges (that were the only colleges that used the SAT that first year). The students applying to those colleges today are much better than the ones applying to those colleges 50 or so years ago. Their SAT totals are at least 200 points better on average. The same thing is true for the students who get accepted at these top colleges. They are much better students on average than those who were accepted 50 or so years ago.

In the mid-1990’s, the SAT people decided that they didn’t like the scoring system they had created. They decided that it was better to have the averages stay the same rather than insist on strict comparability from year to year. So they changed the scoring to the present system, where the average score is 500 for each of the math and verbal sections each year.

Aren’t they about to change the scoring system again? I think I heard something about it on the news the other day.

I’m unemployed; in Spain but there is a current shortage, and it will become more serious in a few years (the Spanish baby boom is 1965-1975, and we’re finally getting stable enough financially to dare have kids).

I keep getting asked “oh, why don’t you become a teacher? It’s SO hard to find science teachers!”

A: because of students who demand “how DARE you give me a 7? I NEED A ******* 10 IN THIS CLASS YOU ******* *****! You’re ******** my average!” That’s at the college entrance level; the current school system gives kids a “pass grade” even if they fail every single course, so of course when they get to college they expect the same coddling. Which I’m not willing to give to anybody, age 0 to 300.