Is the ‘Teacher Shortage’ Over?

By Anthony Rebora — August 01, 2003 2 min read

News sites this summer have been reporting a trend that would have seemed far- fetched only a year ago: Schools are having marked success in filling teaching positions. Teacher shortages may not be over (as one article suggests), but it’s clear the landscape of teacher recruitment is changing significantly. Here’s a review of a few recent news stories:

  • A mid-August Associated Press story picked up by a number of papers reported that the demand for teachers “has eased significantly as the economy has cooled. ...” In addition to the tightened economy, the report points to incentive programs enacted by many districts as having bolstered the teaching ranks. The story notes, however, that teachers in some subjects—math, bilingual education, special education, and science—remain stubbornly difficult to find. It also raises the question of whether the new teachers being hired will be able to meet the requirements for highly qualified teachers mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.
  • Pinellas County (Fla.) has hired some 400 teachers this summer, according to a report in the St. Petersburg Times. As of late July, only 30 jobs remained open--about one third the number that were open before school started last year. Among the factors cited as contributing to the district’s improvement are a “streamlined online application process” and improved “on-the-road recruitment methods.” The article notes, for example, that principals now accompany recruiters on trips to college campuses.
  • Perhaps most surprisingly, Philadelphia school officials are optimistic the district will open schools “with no teacher vacancies for the first time in many years,” according to a July 30 story in the Philadelphia Daily News. The story says the district has been flooded with over 3,800 applications from teachers over the past year. Sources cited credit the surge to reforms introduced by the schools chief Paul Vallas. Those include a structured mentoring program, a standardized curriculum, and a strong emphasis on recruiting. One official quoted stressed that standards for new teachers have also been raised.
  • The New Orleans school district has drawn in over 300 teachers this year from a mix of recruitment programs, says a story in The Times-Picayune. About 150 of the new teachers were recruited through the Orleans Parish Teaching Fellows, a project set up to attract fully certified teachers to the district. The rest derive from fast-track alternative programs at local universities and the Teach for America. District officials hope the “infusion of teachers” will help reduce the number of uncertified and substitute teachers the district has had to rely on in the past.