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Private Schools Predict Teacher Shortage

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Despite the schools' increased recruiting efforts, the number of job openings for mathematics and science teachers at independent schools is about five times greater than the number of candidates for the jobs, a report by the National Association of Independent Schools (nais) says.

Citing statistics provided by Independent Educational Services, a teacher-placement agency for private schools, the report says that between 1977 and 1982, there were 5,501 vacancies for mathematics and science teachers, and 1,391 candidates for the jobs.

During the same period, there were 2,049 vacancies for administrative jobs, and 3,201 candidates to fill those positions, the report says. In other fields--English, social studies, and foreign languages--the number of job openings exceeded the number of candidates by a modest margin.

The nais report, entitled "The Critical Shortage of Mathematics and Science Teachers: The Tip of an Iceberg?" suggests that the current critical shortage of mathematics and science teachers "appears to foreshadow a more general shortage of qualified independent-school teachers in all disciplines and at all levels."

Such a shortage, however, can also have positive effects if school officials and others use it as an opportunity to look at the needs of education from a broader perspective, noted Louis Knight, director of academic services for nais "It seems to me that we have this extraordinary opportunity, if the focal length of our lens is long enough, to really look at things in a critical way," Mr. Knight said.

Historically, independent schools have not experienced shortages of teachers in any fields, according to nais

Now--as is true for public schools--the independent schools can no longer rely on a pool of highly qualified women with few career options other than teaching.

In addition, salaries at independent schools have traditionally been lower than those of public schools. In the 1982-83 school year, the median salary for a beginning teacher at a New England co-educational day school was $10,000.

The median salary that year for experienced teachers in New England was $15,950, and on the West coast, which reported the highest median salary for experienced teachers, the figure stood at $17,950.

To forestall the anticipated teacher shortage, the report suggests, independent schools must begin to devise new strategies for attracting and keeping teachers.

One way of doing that might be to work directly and systematically with the career-planning offices of colleges and universities to identify qualified and interested prospective teachers.

Such interested students might also be introduced to the field before leaving college, the report suggests. "Independent schools should give serious consideration to developing internship and apprenticeship programs for promising teacher prospects," it says.

The report also urges schools to "take aggressive action" to solicit corporate support for internships and inservice programs. Corporate funds might also be an indirect way of increasing teachers' salaries if local firms agreed to hire mathematics and science teachers during the summer. Another tactic for increasing the pool of qualified teachers might be for independent schools to explore participation in and affiliation with teacher-training programs.

In addition, the report recommends that independent schools encourage the enactment of federal programs that would provide teacher training, foster cooperation between industry and public and private schools, create low-cost loans to prospective teachers, and address in other ways the shortage of mathematics and science teachers.

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