September 15, 2016

Shortage of Qualified Teachers in USA

The United States, despite having one of the best educational systems in the world, is currently experiencing an epic shortage of qualified teachers for accredited primary and secondary schools. According to a recent report released by the Learning Policy Institute (“A Coming Crisis in Teaching?”), this shortage of U.S. teachers is only getting worse, not better.

There are several factors accounting for the lack of qualified teachers. While there’s still plenty of demand for teachers, there’s just not enough supply. After the global financial crisis of 2008, schools across America were actually cutting back on teachers and teaching resources as a stopgap budget measure. But now schools are looking to reinstate classes and programs that may have been cut during those belt-tightening years, and that’s leading them to seek out new teachers.

Unfortunately, even as schools are looking to ramp up hiring, the size of the existing teaching pool is getting smaller. This is both a pipeline problem, in terms of the number of new teachers entering the teaching workforce, and an attrition problem, in terms of the number of older teachers who are retiring or leaving the field entirely.

In its report, the Learning Policy Institute came up with some astounding numbers pointing to the lack of supply of teachers. In 2009, the supply of new teachers was 691,000. But just five years later, in 2014, the supply of new teachers was just 451,000. Moreover, the attrition rate of older teachers is accelerating. Whereas previously, the attrition rate was close to 4 percent, it’s now getting closer to 8 percent.

And there’s one more factor that’s exacerbating the supply-demand problem for new teachers: the ongoing push by schools to improve their student/teacher ratios in the classroom. To promote a better learning experience for children, schools are looking to lower the ratio, thereby resulting in a more personalized learning experience. But that requires more teachers.

The problem has affected some U.S. states differently. Generally speaking, the teacher supply problem is worse in some states than others, due to widely differing demographic factors, such as the percentage of the population that is below the median income level. The projected teaching shortage across the nation in 2015 was 60,000. But by 2018, says the Learning Policy Institute, that gap could be as high as 100,000. In short, that’s 100,000 teaching jobs in America that could go unfilled every year.

To understand how this problem expresses itself at the local level, consider the situation now in the state of Arizona. There, the state has approximately 500 unfilled positions across both secondary and primary educational institutions. In some cases, these schools are not even receiving a single resume for the openings – so it’s not a matter of being too selective, it’s a matter that there just aren’t enough teachers within the state. That’s led Arizona to embrace the hiring of foreign teachers from the Philippines as a stopgap measure. Without hiring these foreign teachers, the schools simply wouldn’t be able to offer classes — or they’d have to offer them in packed classrooms.

In many ways, technology has made the process of addressing the teacher shortage an easier one to solve. Schools now can conduct interviews via Skype with potential applicants, and it’s much easier to advertise for potential vacancies on the Internet.

For now, there are several areas where America’s teacher shortage is hitting the hardest – special education, math and science, and bilingual and English-language education. The gap in math and science teachers has naturally led American educators to take a closer look at nations that are known for their math and science proficiency, such as India and China.

Eventually, America may be able to fill this teacher gap by ramping up efforts to train and certify more teachers. But until that happens, it will be looking to hire foreign teachers from abroad to fill an immediate and significant teaching gap before it turns into a full-fledged crisis.

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