Study challenges teacher-shortage forecast

There is no teacher shortage in the United States, according to a study by the National Center for Education Information based in Washington, D.C., and - barring a dramatic turn of events - there will not be one in the next five years. Teachers are not leaving the profession at the rate they were in the late 1970s and early '80s, the center says. Many teachers who left the classroom are trying to get back into teaching, the report states.

New teacher graduates are a smaller and smaller proportion of the teacher-applicant pool. The study reports that 50 to 60 percent of teacher applicants are ``recent college graduates,'' 10 to 20 percent are former teachers trying to get back into teaching, 10 to 20 percent are substitute or part-time teachers seeking full-time teaching positions, 2 to 5 percent are mid-career changers, and 2 to 5 percent retirees wanting to become teachers.

The interest among minorities in teaching as a profession is on the increase. While 9 percent of the current teaching force is minority, 17 percent of those hired full time in 1987-88 were minority.

Applicants looking for teaching jobs are willing to teach in inner-city or rural schools. With the exception of special-education and bilingual teachers, both types of school district report ample applicants.

The study tracks with available data collected by the US Department of Education, says Dr. Vance Great, a senior statistician at the US Center for Education Statistics.

Salaries are going up, says Joel Gold of the American Federation of Teachers, and this could be one reason for the increase in applications. In addition, reforms over the last five years have given many teachers more control of their classrooms, allowing them to set academic goals for their school or district. Some urban districts have teacher-mentors to help new teachers.

Teachers are like any other professionals, Mr. Gold says. If they can see conditions that will let them succeed, or see that districts are moving in such a direction, it is logical that better applicants will apply.

Data were collected from all 50 state education departments and 75 school districts across the US, including 14 of the 15 districts that enroll 100,000 or more students and 29 of the 64 that enroll between 50,000 and 99,000.

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