Advocacy group questions teacher shortage

Advocacy group questions teacher shortage

(District of Columbia) The number of K-12 public school teachers in the U.S. jumped 13 percent since the end of the recession increasing the total to more than 3.8 million, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The upswing in new teachers joining the ranks, the NCTQ said, is expected to continue in the short term and more than keep up with the growth rate of students nationally.

The new analysis comes as part of an effort by the NCTQ to tamp down growing concerns of a national teacher shortage, which the advocacy group doesn’t believe is as real as some media reports have indicated.

“In some places in America, there are shortages--some of them quite severe,” said Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ in a statement last week.

“In other places, there are not,” she said. “The biggest problems the nation faces are chronic shortages of some kinds of teachers (e.g. STEM, special education). These shortages, for the most part, are not new, but have lasted now for decades.”

The NCTQ, perhaps best known for its critical reviews of teacher preparation programs, also has concerns that Congress or even state legislatures might try to address the shortage by raising teacher salaries across the board—which they point out will do nothing to make hard to fill positions more desirable—or build in expensive residency programs in high-cost areas of the country.

“Teacher prep programs, school districts, and states have yet to enlist the solutions necessary to systematically reduce shortages in some subjects and in some schools—because most of the solutions require additional funds, tough decisions to steer teacher candidates towards high-demand subject areas, and paying teachers different salary amounts,” Walsh said.

The organization also challenges an often repeated statistic that 50 percent of all new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.

According to government data from 2015, it is closer to 17 percent who leave within the first four years.

They take aim at another factoid: that the turnover rate among teachers is far higher than most other professions.

“T​here have been assertions that the current ‘teacher shortage crisis’ is due to unacceptably high rates of teacher turnover,” the NCTQ said. “The narrative we are being asked to believe is that if our nation does not enact measures to address the large number of dissatisfied exiting teachers, the national teacher shortage will become an even greater crisis. Using​ ​the​ ​most​ ​recent​ ​government​ ​data​ ​available, ​ ​the​ ​turnover​ ​rate​ ​for​ ​all​ ​teachers​ ​in​ ​the most​ ​recent​ ​year​ ​is​ ​16​ ​percent.”

They argue that the rate is even smaller because teachers switching schools are improperly counted.

Of the ​8​ ​percent​ that is leaving the profession each year, the NCTQ said about 40 percent are retiring and another 30 percent are taking other education-related, non-teaching jobs in a school or school district.