Education Chat

Teacher Supply and Demand

B.J. Bryant, executive director of the American Association for Employment in Education, took questions on imbalances in teacher supply and demand, what schools are doing to address them, and how teaching candidates can best position themselves in the today's market.

Teacher Supply and Demand

April 26, 2006

Anthony Rebora, Teacher Magazine/ (Moderator):
Welcome to our live chat on teacher supply and demand. In previous career-related chats, we’ve received a number of comments from frustrated teaching candidates wondering why, if there are supposed to be teacher shortages out there, jobs are so hard to come by. So we thought it would be a good idea to explore some of the trends in the teacher job market. Judging by the number and quality of the questions we’ve gotten so far, we take it many of you agree.

Our guest today, B.J. Bryant, is eminently qualified to help us out. Ms. Bryant is the Executive Director of the American Association for Employment Education, which collects data on educator supply and demand and works with college career offices and school districts. So she’s got her finger on the pulse on this issue.

Let’s get started.

Question from Jackie Pittman, Unemployed Teacher, Tyler, TX:
Why do schools say there is a shortage of teachers and the let people obtain their certification in EC-4th Grade when in actuality the shortage is in secondary math and science and those of us with the EC-4 certification are still unemployed 2years later?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
The one thing I almost always say to a reporter asking about educator supply and demand is: “there is only one generalization you can make about the job market, and that is --- you cannot generalize about the job market.” The education marketplace is so dependent upon the discipline (as you have mentioned) and the geographic region of the country. There can be very distinctive markets even in different areas of the same state. Our research separates the education job market into 64 different fields, and we try to make sure that our exposure in the media captures the complexity of the situation, not merely that there is a shortage or there is not a shortage. Best wishes to you in finding something for your 3rd year --- always contact your university’s career center or get reciprocal services at a university in your area so that you can develop your job search support system.

Question from Javier Melendez, Senior Director, Recruitment Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Florida:
Given the critical shortage of teacher candidates in particular geographical regions of this nation and the oversupply of candidates in other areas--would you consider spearheading the creation of a cutting-edge national computerized system capable of alerting districts and candidates where the recruitment needs really exists?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
Any method to get accurate information out to enhance candidates’ employment possibilities and your chances of filling positions in Orange County with qualified, enthusiastic educators gets my vote. There are national websites where jobs are posted electronically every day, and I know of a few plans that are being discussed. We know we are on the brink of some critical imbalances with baby boomer retirements and faster attrition of new educators.

However, even the best information system will not pack a candidate into a U-Haul. National research of Dr. Bill Loadman’s that I replicated at Ohio State indicates that over 3/4 of education candidates end up teaching within 50 miles of their high school, their college, or both. Even the most attractive location cannot lure some candidates to move. Perhaps with your location, you could look at hiring retiring Northerners!

Question from Danielle Smith, Student, Marquette University:
As a soon-to-be Secondary English Teacher, what can I best do to make myself needed in the teacher job market? Thank you!

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
There are many possibilities, but the first that comes to mind is that of presenting yourself professionally and assertively. Presenting yourself professionally includes the way in which you present yourself on your resume, making sure that you indicate details about your teaching experiences and all the extracurricular areas you would enjoy advising or coaching. It also includes the way you communicate by mail, e-mail, and phone, as well as the way you present yourself mentally and physically for interviews.

The second is that of being as geographically flexible as you possibly can. For example, even if you need to stay in the Milwaukee area, draw a circle that is 30-40 minutes from your home and apply to every system in that circle. Watch each district’s website for new postings. If you are open to larger “moves” then you have just increased your chances exponentially!

Question from Penny Brown, Masters Student, Harvard Graduate School of Education:
My understanding is that teacher supply is a product of high attrition due to competition from other jobs. I imagine this is all the more so for teachers with a math / science background. How can we make teaching an attractive long term career for high quality math/science teachers?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
Attrition can be attributed to many factors: personal choice, attractiveness of another career, dissatisfaction with employer, etc. All teachers have skills transferrable to other careers; however, some teaching disciplines have specialized skills that are readily attractive to other types of employers: math, science, technology education, languages, etc. Our research shows that there are several factors affecting the supply of educators negatively: working conditions, salary, school safety, discipline problems, mandates and testing, and amount of teaching time. If we can address some of these issues in districts, we may be able to retain some of those who are on the fence. As an example, does an attorney have to worry about having a phone in his/her office? Does that person need to ration the amount of photocopying they can do? All of these things figure into working conditions. And our research group has seen a real focus on working conditions in our responses.

Comment from THEODORE M. ZOGG, Ed.D Wichita Public Schools, Wichita, KS:
I hear that there is a real shortage of teachers, but many states will not consider a better system of accepting certification. If a teacher/administrator is fully certified in one state why can’t another states accept the work that teacher or administrator has done and lience them? I don’t completely except the excuse that there is not enough educators. I just think that there is too much competition between states to allow educators to move where they want to live and serve children. Therefore, many educators are getting out of the profession because they are treated as something less then professional.

Comment from Ping Wang, Master student in TESOL, SUNY New Paltz:
My husband and I recently came back from China. My husband, who is an American citizen, is having serious problem finding a suitable job in education which makes me doubt higher education and American schools’ needs. He has taught in special education for over ten years and holds a master degree in curriculum design. Many places he applied for special education teaching said that he was “over qualified” but all the other places he applied for curriculum design job said he does not have enough experience. We just cannot understand the fact that when he did not have a master degree, he could find a teaching job easily; however, after all the dedication on master degree, it turns out he can not find a job. We hope someone can give us some suggestion which will be a great help in our tuff life now. thanks a lot.

Question from Mark Carter, Social Studies Teacher, North Clayton High School:
Do you believe that the educational system will ever accept a different pay scale for teachers in some subjects? It seems that in every state the same areas are deemed a “critical shortage” areas.

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
Over the past 15 years or more, I have seen some school systems offering incentives to candidates in shortage fields --- specials education, bilingual education, ESL, math, science. I have also seen school systems work on incentives for ALL teachers they are recruiting, regardless of their discipline: relocation assistance, partnerships with apartment complexes and mortgage banks to facilitate housing, assistance to spouses, etc.

I have not seen different pay scales, per se, rather bonuses or incentives. If you want to research this a little more, both the AFT and the NEA have articles on their websites about different types of salary structures. There are also districts basing merit pay on student test results or other performance measures.

Question from Sarah Mendonca-McCoy, Analyst, Florida Legislature:
How will the predicted trends in teacher supply and demand affect teacher quality? What can state governments and colleges of education do to improve teacher quality despite these challenges?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
Some of our HR members would say that this is a real Catch-22. They need to find highly-qualified educators and if they do not exist in the discipline they need, they must look to other possibilities to fill the positions. Most states, some colleges, and some school district/college partnerships have developed alternative licensure to speed up the time that a person who already has a degree can complete courses or become provisionally certified. I understand the plight of the district who desperately needs a teacher, but I’m also a strong advocate of teaching as a profession and not something that can be quickly learned. There is the art of teaching and the science of teaching. Colleges of education can continue to look at the numbers of candidates they are producing in certain fields as compared to the demand for those fields. However, it takes time to change programs. States can also conduct supply and demand studies to assess what the near future looks like in their states and address those concerns through their legislatures. The State of Washington is one that has done that every two years.

Question from Beth Romano, Science Education Graduate Student, Hofstra University:
What steps can I take now, as a Graduate student in Science Education, to make myself as marketable as possible?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
First, plunge into your internship or student teaching --- no tip-toeing! Learn from other teachers and principals and faculty members. Secondly, work with the career center at your Hofstra to gain as much knowledge about the job market and job hunting techniques as possible. Career center directors can guide you through the steps of preparing for the marketplace. We’re coming to the end of the season for job fairs, but if you have the opportunity to attend one, please do --- it’s like window-shopping: you can open yourself to oppotunities that you might not have seen otherwise.

Excellent materials, verbal communication and interviewing skills, assertiveness --- all of these are positive. And one of the largest factors for anyone’s employability is that of flexibility --- especially geographic flexibility. Even if you are limited to one area, pursue that entire area, not just the 2 or 3 districts with which you are familiar.

As a Science student, you already have a good market, so your emphasis needs to be on finding the “right fit” in a position and a school system --- you have that luxury more than some majors. Good luck finding that perfect spot!

Comment from William Lange, Manager, Lange Consultants:
Lange Consultants is currently developing for the Minnesota Department of Education a mathematical model set to characterize and predict special education teacher supply and demand in Minnesota. The model set includes student populations and teacher populations, including teacher attrition (age-based attrition plus additional factors) and teacher retention. Students are modeled by disability, setting group, strata (district size), region (MN has defined 9 regions), and statewide. Teachers are modeled by unduplicated counts and duplicated counts by assignment code, strata, region, and statewide. The model set is developed for general applicability, including regular education teacher supply and demand.

Anthony Rebora, Teacher Magazine/ (Moderator):
FYI. We’ve received a great number of questions for this chat--more than Ms. Bryant will be able to answer. So I am posting some of them as comments to get as many viewpoints represented as possible.

Question from J. Nick, Mathematics Teacher, Alcorn Middle School:
Being in a critical needs (shortage field) I have always been offered many incentives in the form of money--which isn’t an incentive from my point of view. What advice can you give districts on implementing an effective incentive package to retain and recruit qualified teachers?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
Certainly salary and benefits are on the top of the agenda for many candidates. But, as you say, it depends on someone’s value system in terms of what will bring them to a position or keep them happily employed there.

Again, from our research on factors, I would have to say that working conditions would be a major area for a district’s focus: mentoring, support programs, tuition for continuing your education, opportunities for involvement and advancement, administrative support for discipline, ample resources and materials for your classrooms.

If a district is recruiting significantly from outside its city or region, it needs to find ways to quickly assimilate their new teachers into communtiy resources: religious organizations or groups, community groups, fraternities/sororities, as well as housing, banks, shopping, and other issues with relocation. It’s daunting to start a new job in a new location, and anything to help you feel like you “belong” will be a good thing.

Comment from Nan Drinkard, Para-educator, Avondale Middle School:
There has been more teaching candidates than openings for years in Michigan. I personally have been seeking a full-time teaching job for 30 years and I think too many young hopeful teachers graduate in Michigan with false hopes of finding a job here.

Comment from Marty Solomon, Fayette County Kentucky Schools:
It seems to me that we do not have a teacher shortage, in general. Elementary school teachers are quite plentiful in most areas. But we do have a shortage of certain skills, such as math, foreign language, special ed.

But won’t we always suffer from this shortage as long as salaries fail to reflect market conditions that are necessary to attract such people?

Question from Karen Culver-Rymsza, Science teacher, Plainfield High School,:
It is already known that in science one of the contributing fators toward shortages is higher pay in other job markets. But what do you see as the impact of expanded responsibilities and certification requirements for teachers?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
Our research group has been interested in the fact that state and federal mandates have been the lowest-ranked items in the factors affecting supply --- meaning these are two factors negatively impacting the supply of educators coming into the profession. When we discuss “what does this mean?” we do see a disparity between the number of hoops that new educators must jump through in comparison to the rewards if they make it through all those hoops! That’s not to say that we would ever want to lower standards--high standards are critical to the future of our kids and our society. But I think that having national standards and then 50 different state interpretations of those standards (plus teacher testing, plus steps to keep/advance your license, etc.) do create barriers that can feel like deterrents.

Comment from Melanie Shepherd, TExES Coordinator, TAMIU:
We have numerous students who enter ou institution in pursuit of a non-teaching science degree with the medical field as their eventual goal. Usually the science degree is in biology. For one reason or another, usually not high enough scores on the MCAT, the students are unable to attain their spot in a medical school. Their sights then turn to teaching by default. There are also some students who pursue biology just because they DO want to teach it. The public school districts here are telling all of our students who tried to get hired that they must take the Composite science exam in order to teach in their schools. The poor students are up against a rock and a hard place. The composite exam covers biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. Students are doing well if they have a major in one and a minor in one other area. The school districts, the students, and the institution for higher education are all in a quandary.

Comment from Jodi Zwayer, Business Teacher, South-Western City Schools, Grove City, Ohio:
I have just lost a job of three years due to budget cuts. There are not many openings for business teachers in this area and quite a few recent graduates in business coming out of Ohio State University’s program that are now competing for the same jobs. I became a business teacher just 3 years ago after spending 20 years in banking as a manager, then corporate trainer and was encourgaged to go into teaching to share my knowledge with adolescents. The alternative route program allowed me to teach while completing 58 hours in licensure and Master’s courses but that option doesn’t seem available in many other areas of education. For example, math has always been my strength and we do a lot of math applications in business yet to get licensed as a math teacher now, I’m looking at another 70 credits to be completed. With math being one of the “high needs” areas in education, is any district looking at creating alternative programs for established professionals wanting to teach math???

Question from Gary Hipes, Science Dept. Chair, Noblesville High School:
We are a growing school corporation in the Indianapolis area. What is the outlook for availablitiy of science teachers over the next 10 years? Is the outlook different for the biological sciences compared to chemistry and physics?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
From our 30 years of research on supply and demand, I can only extrapolate from the past into the future. We have not seen any indicators that would show a great increase in the number of science teachers in the near future. And when we look at the individual sciences, physics and chemistry have always been more severe shortages that biology, earth science, general science, etc.

Once in a while, we hear of a special scholarship or loan forgiveness program that could help recruit college students into science education (or a few other fields), but they are few. They may help some states or regions, but I have not seen something of that nature that would help the entire country with addressing shortages.

Comment from Martin Maxwell, Transition Specialist, Key West, FL:
I’m an exceptional education teacher and my wife is a HS math teacher so finding employment is not that much of a problem. The new rules for “highly qualified” have however made the some of our ESE teachers have second thoughts about their degree. It seems NCLB has made the ESE degree useless without a second certification depending each year on class assignment. Why deal with ESE if you have to hold more than one certification yet get nothing extra for the effort?

Question from Tracy Broccolino, Reading Specialist:
Which areas of the country are experiencing the greatest teacher shortages?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
It seems like a broken record, but our research would say: follow the sun. The demographics for several years have shown the movement of populations into coastal areas (the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, D.C), the Southwest, and to some extent, the Rockies.

However, I want to point out that the job market can be different within any 100-mile radius of where you are standing. Perhaps the districts having the toughest time addressing shortages are rural districts. Suburban districts have the salaries, benefits and working conditions that teachers may be seeking. Urban districts often have excellent salaries and benefits in order to attract teachers (plus they may have colleges nearby to offer graduate programs, etc.). The rural districts have to compete with those factors. So, geographically, we can look at supply and demand in terms of regions or states of the U.S., or we can look at it in terms of regions within a state.

Comment from Anonymous, physicist/ teacher wannabe:
I and several colleagues are mid-career professional scientists. We have seriously considered teaching. What stops us isn’t teaching salaries per se (we know one doesn’t go into to teaching for the money), but rather the fact that if we are offered anything at all, it is a beginning teacher’s salary or at most one with 5 years experience.

There are are number of reasons for this situation, but primary among them is that there is no shortage of “highly qualified” math and science teachers in my state (NJ), at least not by the NCLB definition.

As far as many schools are concerned there is not much to be gained by hiring someone who scores in the top 1% on their Praxis II test of subject matter knowledge, when they can more cheaply hire an average performer who misses half the questions on these high school level tests. Both are “highly qualified”.

States set the “highly qualified” passing scores, and their major criteria seems to be assuring an adequate supply of teachers rather than any objective standard as to what a “highly qualified” math teacher should know. ... The shortage of high quality science and math teachers is chronic because the system does little to recruit and reward high quality. There is no shortage of “highly qualified” science and math teachers because the regulatory standard is set as low as needed to assure that there is no shortage.

Question from Stella Bell, Retired Principal:
Why are we not addressing a specific demand for more African American teachers in the education field? How can we make the work place more sensitive toward the African American culture? How can we recruit and retain African American teachers. I want my child to interact with professional teachers that look like him.

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
This has been a major concern during the past 30 years. Many colleges and school systems have worked hard on programs to recruit and retain teachers of color. And I cannot agree more, that kids need to see teachers of both genders, all ethnicities, age groups, etc. in order to have a balanced view of the world.

I think that many, many people have tried to address the demand. No one particular program has been the magic answer. There have been exciting “grow your own” programs in some communities, where teachers aides, cooks, bus drivers, etc. can work for a school system, go to college to become educators, have their tuition paid, and be guaranteed a job at the end.

Question from Susan Wright, substitute teacher:
I graduated Dec. 2002, a highly qualified teacher, Kappa Delta Pi member, and I’m still a teacher in search of a classroom all of my the state of Michigan.

My question is why is the market so tight, if the economy is supposed to be improving? Networking, attending teacher job fairs, e-mail, Internet and professional development hasn’t helped me yet...

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
The economy is different in each state, and even portions of each state. The economy in Columbus is different from that of Cleveland. Michigan is different from Georgia. New York is different from Iowa.

Substitute teaching can be the best, first alternative. Networking within the schools where you work is powerful. One thought would be: don’t limit yourself to just those districts. I’m a firm believer in a 30-50 mile radius from where you live. Or relocation to even a different part of the same state.

The best piece of advice is to get to a career advisor at your alma mater college, or if you do not live close to where you graduated, contact the nearest teacher education college’s career center and request reciprocal services. Perhaps an advisor can look at your strategy and come up with fresh ideas. Best wishes to you!

Question from Michelle Godard Terrell, Public Impact:
What should leaders do to retain strong teachers in hard-to-staff schools?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
In several other answers, I’ve mentioned working conditions. In hard-to-staff schools, that may be even a bigger issue. What kinds of support systems exist for those teachers? Do they have other teachers with whom to share concerns or problems or strategies --- or at least a way to blow off steam and not feel isolated. Do they have administrators or supervisors ready to help out with discipline?

Most teachers are in the profession because they want to make a difference. Those in hard-to-staff schools may have an extra passion to serve kids who do not have everything handed to them. But if the teachers themselves do not feel safe, supported, nurtured, rewarded, or listened to, they will have a tough time staying motivated to remain in that building or district, or perhaps even in the profession.

Question from Emily Rummo, Senior Analyst, NewSchools Venture Fund:
What trends are you seeing with regards to new teacher preparation? How are districts communicating their teacher shortage needs, and how are those needs being met?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
The most consistent trend I have seen in teacher education over the past decade or more is one of more field experience, more internships, more real-time experience in the schools rather than in a college classroom. Most of the reform efforts have focused on the necessity of practicing the art of teaching. Certainly, most curricula have also addressed the culture in which teaching takes place: a wide diversity of kids, different nationalities and ethnicities, different levels of ability, living in an information age.

Most districts are using the internet to post positions and announcement to their potention applicants and employees. In order to meet their own shortages or their preferred staffing, the HR directors will use the internet, on-campus recruiting, job fairs at colleges, implementing their own school district employment fairs, searching through the databases at university career centers, and using various on-line job listing services. Those are strategies they will use, and they will “hope” that the strategies result in the educators they really want and need.

Question from Karen Jamison, Department Chair:
What do you think small private colleges can do to encourage more undergraduates to major in education, with teacher salary and demands on teachers are not selling points?

B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
If a student really wants to be an educator, there may be no stopping him or her! So often, there’s a passion for the field that salaries and other factors cannot overshadow.

They need to see the field as it is and not through the “romance” of helping others or saving the world. But I think that there are rewards that go so far beyond salaries and benefits, that those who really want to teach will find a way.

I sincerely hope that we continue to increase the salaries and working conditions so that your question becomes a moot point. We do expect a teacher to not only teach a subject, but to nurture kids, counsel them, be a social worker, write reports, keep data, go back to school, and fill many more roles and responsibilities. They do deserve the very best in salaries and working conditions.

Teachers are building children who will build the next generation of society. We should be paying them millions. They deserve it!

Comment from B.J. Bryant, AAEE:
Before I leave the webchat, I need to share something with candidates from my experience not only at AAEE, but working in career centers at Ohio state and the University of Illinois! You may have been hearing about school systems laying off teachers in recent weeks. For example, Columbus (OH) Public Schools just laid off 314 teachers today. Please do not let the panic set in! Nearly every state has deadlines by which a school system must offer teachers either a contract or a “pink skip.” And for many states that deadline is April 30. So, to be on the safe side, the district will be conservative and lay off as many or more than needed to meet the budget deficit. However, due to attrition, population changes, retirements after the deadline, changes in the incoming finance, etc., the picture can change quickly and will create “musical chairs” throughout the spring and summer. The job search will not be over until a week or two into the new school year, as classroom numbers get a final adjustment and districts decide if they need to alter their classroom distribution. So, after the dramatic headlines around the country regarding layoffs, the process of hiring back individuals one at a time will not make headlines. Certainly, some states and regions are experiencing some financial struggles and those show up in school budgets. So, in some cases, those layoffs will not turn around. But in so many cases, a good number of those teachers will be hired back through the course of the summer. It’s difficult to keep motivated through May, June, July and August, but the rewards may be there for those who keep workin’ it!

Anthony Rebora, Teacher Magazine/ (Moderator):
Well, I’m sorry to say we’ve run out of time. Sorry if we didn’t get to your questions--as I said, we got a lot of them. I want to thank B.J. Bryant for her very thoughtful responses, and her resourcefulness in still managing to do the chat on a day when her Internet access at work was down. A transcript of the chat will be posted on tonight.

If you have further thoughts on this issue--or on the chat--please write me at

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