Beware The Overly Broad “Teacher Shortage” Story

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The temptation to write “looming teacher shortage” stories can be a strong one for journalists, given the recent spate of “I’m quitting” testimonials and shortage hotspots like Las Vegas.

But this recent FiveThirtyEight post, plus a new AFT report, are good reminders that reporters should be cautious about creating the impression that shortages are widespread or that the profession is in some sort of immediate decline.

Titled Are There Too Few Teachers, Or Too Few Good Ones?, FiveThirtyEight makes the case that the problem isn’t any looming widespread deficit in the number of teachers out there, or any projected decrease in the number of teachers that are going to be needed in the near future:

“It’s likely that the drop in enrollment in teacher certification programs is just a blip on the radar resulting from the recent economic turmoil. Economists seem confident that the number of teaching positions will continue to grow.”

Enrollment in teacher prep is down, sure, and over the long term there may be a decline in the growth of teaching thanks to demographics (and, perhaps, technology). But there’s no shortage of small and questionable teacher preparation programs in the US, and many fewer new teachers than once were thought to leave the profession are actually doing so.

Even the latest survey from the AFT shows that most teachers still don’t want to leave the job despite all its stresses and politics.

Image used with permission.

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Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.