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Published in Print: January 26, 2000, as Teacher Recruitment Harder In Urban Areas, Report Says

Teacher Recruitment Harder In Urban Areas, Report Says

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While all stripes of schools are struggling to fill certain teaching positions, the nationwide teacher-recruitment crunch has hit hardest those districts already challenged by the largest numbers of at-risk students, a report finds.

More than 82 percent of urban districts polled said they allow "noncredentialed" individuals to teach because they cannot recruit and retain enough qualified educators, according to the report. Some 60 percent allow teachers to work with emergency licenses, and about as many reported that they employ long-term substitutes to keep classrooms staffed.

"Nothing will scuttle our efforts to improve like our shortage of teachers," Michael D. Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, said last week at a press conference held here to release the results.

For More Information

Read the "The Urban Teacher Challenge" online. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

Mr. Casserly's group, one of three co-sponsors of the report, is made up of 54 of the country's largest urban districts. Together, they serve 6.5 million students, 79 percent of whom are minority-group members, and 61 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

The study was also co-sponsored by the Belmont, Mass.-based Recruiting New Teachers Inc., a not-for-profit group dedicated to increasing the quality of the teaching force, and the Council of the Great City Schools of Education, a higher education organization based in Washington.

For the study, RNT polled administrators at member schools in the two other groups on what shortages they were experiencing and what efforts they were making to alleviate them.

Mismatched Expertise

The greatest shortages were among mathematics, science, and special education teachers, with at least 95 percent of the districts reporting an immediate demand in one or more of those areas. The same specialties topped the list four years ago when the three organizations sponsored a similar survey, but the demand has become even more intense. In 1996, about 69 percent of districts said science teachers were in short supply, and 67 percent said the same of math teachers.

Part of the problem, the report suggests, is the mismatch between the specialties of educators coming out of teacher-preparation programs and the types of jobs that need to be filled. The study found, for example, that elementary education and social studies were the two most popular areas among students at the schools of education polled, but they were also among those in the least demand in K-12 schools.

Districts are employing a variety of strategies to try to expand the pool of potential teachers and attract more of them in the specialties they need, the report shows. Nearly two-thirds of the systems offer alternative routes toward certification, such as part-time teacher-preparation programs for teachers' aides and other paraprofessionals. More than one-third are recruiting through the World Wide Web.

But Mr. Casserly said the shortages cannot be resolved by district efforts alone. Specifically, he called on state policymakers to help equalize salaries between rich and poor districts. "Most new teachers can make more money and have less headaches in the suburbs, which are now our greatest competitor," he said.

A new poll by the United Federation of Teachers, an American Federation of Teachers affilate, shows how dire the situation appears to be in New York City. More than 14,000 of the system's 78,000 teachers are "seriously considering" retiring in the next two years, it says. In recent years, about 2,600 educators on average have retired annually, the group says.

Vol. 19, Issue 20, Page 7

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