Education News

Want to reduce the teacher shortage? Treat teachers like professionals

by Tim Walker, this article originally appeared on

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All of a sudden everybody is talking about the teacher shortage, thanks in large part to a recent article in The New York Times that examined the desperate measures districts are taking – including dropping certification requirements – to fill vacancies. Too many pink slips were given out during the recession, the economy is improving, the teacher pool is dry, so we need to recruit, recruit, recruit. End of story? Not so fast, says Richard Ingersoll, professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Ingersoll, who has been tracking the teacher profession for years, recently spoke with NEA Today about the nuances behind the teacher shortage narrative and why we need to turn the spotlight on keeping good teachers in the classroom.

We’re hearing a lot in the media about the teacher shortage across the country, and some are even calling it a “crisis.” What does the data tell us about what’s really happening?

Richard Ingersoll: It tells us this: We do not have a teacher shortage in the sense that we have an underproduction of new, qualified teachers. The conventional wisdom – seen in the flurry of news reports at the beginning of every school year – tells us that we do, but It’s not true and it’s never been true. We do, however, have schools where the principals report that they have difficulty filling positions in some fields, which are usually math, science and special education. So there are hiring difficulties, but it’s mostly due to too many teachers leaving before retirement. That’s the basic story…

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