In recent months news outlets have been awash with stories about a teacher shortage in North Carolina as well as nationally (see Education leaders address NC teacher shortage crisis and Fewer NC students seeking teaching degrees).
Anyone who has been watching the education landscape knows this dominant narraative. There is a teacher shortage (largely because the experts and media say there is) and we need to do something about it. A number of people are starting to challenge such thinking. Most recently Kate Walsh, a very bright educator at the National Center on Teacher Quality. Earlier this week Walsh opined Are Big Teacher Shortages Around the Corner? . In it Walsh referred to data comparing new graduates to available opening showed 42 of 50 states actually have an oversupply of teachers. Using the same data, North Carolina had 18 percent more graduates than jobs (2012-13 data). Walsh writes:
There are real shortages of ELL, special ed and secondary STEM teachers. Som rural schools also face serious staffing problems — even when it comes to elementary teachers. But the truth that the headlines bury is that we have been systematically overproducing teachers in most subject areas for years. Here's some of the supply and demand data we have collected for the most recent year available (2012-13), comparing the number of elementary teachers who are prepared with how many are needed (for the full table, see here). . . .
If government projections are even remotely accurate, the drop in teacher prep enrollment isn't likely to lead to general shortages, not at their current rates. Further, a decline is not necessarily a bad thing, provided it isn't the better perspective candidates who are making other career choices. While universities might like the resulting tuition revenue, it's not healthy for a profession to systematically overproduce, and not only because it suppresses wages.
Teacher shortage? It's more a problem of chronic under-supply in specific targeted areas. That declining enrollments in certain areas are always seen as a bad thing — and not part of the natural process of market correction — is a problem. Getting past such thinking is a necessary part of the resolving some of the long-term current challenges.