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Demand for Teachers Up (in Some Cases)

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The job market for teachers is showing signs of slow but steady improvement, according to a survey of education school officials.

The need for educators increased last year in half of the 64 fields studied, concludes the American Association for Employment in Education in its annual study of educator supply and demand. That marked the second straight year overall demand for educators has grown, after declines in 2002 and 2003, the AAEE says.

The trend paralleled the nation’s economic growth and improved state and local revenue collections over the past two years, the study notes.

Shortages varied widely by subject area, however. The career center directors and school of education leaders surveyed by the AAEE reported “considerable” teacher shortages only in mathematics and six special education fields, including severe disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, and learning disability.

Twenty-two fields, meanwhile, fell into the AAEE’s “some shortage” category. Those included other special education areas, physics, chemistry, and bilingual education.

Supply and demand were evenly balanced in 31 other fields, such as language arts, elementary education-middle school level, and music. Job candidates in these fields, according to the AAEE, “can have realistic expectations to obtain desirable positions, … [but] may not find the exact position they seek in the exact location they most desire.”

Surpluses of teachers were reported in elementary education-primary level, physical education, health education and social studies. No field, however, had a “considerable” surplus.

Demand for teachers also fluctuated by geographic region, the AAEE’s data shows, with the greatest shortages appearing in the Mountain-West area, the Plains, and the Southeast.

Shortage Concerns

In gauging the various factors that influence education-employment trends, the AAEE emphasizes that, for the second straight year, government mandates associated with the No Child Left Behind Act were seen as having a negative impact on the supply of new teachers. The organization calls this finding “disquieting” in light of NCLB’s stress on the need for highly qualified teachers.

The AAEE’s study comes amid renewed discussion of serious teacher shortages, particularly in special education, math, and science. Citing concerns about school equity and the United States’ global competitiveness, the Bush administration has proposed initiatives to hire thousands of new math and science teachers. Further, a 2005 report by the Center for the Future of Teacher and Learning forecast that California will need at least 100,000 new teachers over the next 10 years. Demand will be greatest, the CFTL said, in special education and bilingual education.

In a February 16 live Web chat on teacher recruitment hosted by edweek.org, participants expressed concerns about chronic shortages in some subjects, as well as finding replacements for growing numbers of retiring teachers.

Teacher Magazine has published a number of recent feature stories highlighting teacher-workforce issues. A November 2005 article looked at the reasons behind the low numbers of males in the profession, while a May 2005 piece (and related Web chat) examined a Florida district’s innovative efforts to groom its own students for teaching positions. A story from March 2005 (and related Web chat) examined how an isolated district in rural North Carolina had become a model for attracting young teachers. And a January 2005 feature profiled a former options trader who’d gone a through a fast-track alternative-certification program to become an elementary school teacher in Chicago.

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