A New Market

By Anthony Rebora — April 01, 2003 2 min read
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The teacher job-market news has been pretty grim lately. With many states looking to close gaping budget deficits, schools districts across the country are facing cutbacks. Word of planned teacher layoffs in a number of districts has seeped into the headlines.

Yet a number of converse patterns are also apparent. Many districts are scrambling to hire more “highly qualified” teachers to meet a new federal mandate. Demographic data still suggest a growing need for qualified teachers in many areas. And, most interestingly, there are reports of aggressive recruiting efforts taking place even as pink slip notices go out.

It seems clear that the teacher job market hasn’t tanked. It’s just become more selective. Here are some ways, based on recent interviews and reports, you can help your chances.

  • Get credentialed. The federal “No Child Left Behind” Act requires schools to have a fully licensed teacher in virtually every classroom by 2005. As a result, according to EDUCATION WEEK, school administrators have put “unprecedented energy” into seeking out fully certified teachers. (Alternative certification also counts under the law.) Many districts now also have programs to help teachers improve their credentials.
  • Consider a shortage subject. Schools have been reporting an ongoing— and in some cases, critical—need for teachers in select subject areas: math, science, bilingual education, foreign languages, and special education. A school administrator in one cash-strapped district recently told us that cutbacks would in no way affect their pursuit of teachers in these subject areas. The need is just too great, she said.
  • Consider an urban or rural school. A number of recent reports have highlighted the uneven distribution of qualified teachers throughout the country. Suburban schools are glutted, while inner-city and rural schools strain to fill their rosters. This “maldistribution” is becoming a focus of education policy. Even with tightened budgets, some districts can tap special grants to offer incentives to teachers who will work in high-needs schools.
  • Get your foot in the door. Make the most of “pre-teaching” jobs. Anecdotal evidence at least suggests that teachers who shine as student teachers or substitutes give themselves the best chance of being pulled into a permanent job. In tough times, schools often view these jobs as way stations.
  • Focus on students. In interviews or contacts with administrators, exhibit strong enthusiasm and consideration for students. It may separate you from the pack. A California principal recently told us, “I am looking for that optimist who feels any child not only can succeed but will succeed.”
  • Take the lead. In these times of heightened pressure and change, schools and recruiters are reportedly targeting candidates with strong “leadership skills.” This means people who can solve problems, drive improvement, and build teams. Highlight these characteristics in your job-search materials
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