Five areas of the U.S. experiencing teacher shortages right now are Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, South Dakota and California. The U.S. Department of Education defines a teacher shortage area as an “inadequate supply of elementary or secondary school teachers” in a “specific grade, subject matter or discipline classification, or a geographic area.” Each state’s Chief State School officer determines teacher shortage areas by following requirements set by the Department of Education.
Oklahoma’s Teacher Shortage Task Force Preliminary Report indicates that this teacher shortage is a statewide issue. In August of 2016, various districts were scrambling to fill over 500 teaching vacancies before the school year began even after cutting back the available teaching jobs by 1,500. The state has responded by extending emergency certification to potential teachers that live in other states or lack the typically required teaching experience. Additionally, Oklahoma has allowed retired teachers to serve as mentors, funded a teacher recruitment program and created various incentives for graduates to teach in hard-to-staff schools.
Arizona is another state that is fighting a statewide shortage issue. The Educator Retention and Recruitment Initial and Second Reports indicate a specific shortage in areas like science, math, kindergarten and special education. Thousands of teachers have been leaving the state in recent years, but without a report on current vacancies, it’s difficult to pinpoint how extensive the problem is. Local news reports have shown that at least 1,000 teaching positions were vacant throughout 2015. The state is responding by increasing k-12 funding to address low compensation rates, reducing the administrative burden on school districts and publicly recognizing the importance of teachers.
The Interim Study Committee on Education identified several shortages in the state of Indiana including in special education, dual credit and STEM classes. Incredibly, the number of individual’s getting first-time teaching licenses has declined by 32 percent since 2011. In response, Governor Mike Pence singed a bill in April of 2016 that created a strong scholarship fund for college students committed to teaching in Indiana for at least five years. Additionally, the state has provided incentives for STEM programs, increased the amount of money being funneled to schools for salaries and conducted reviews over teacher benefits and loan relief options.
South Dakota suffers from a statewide teacher shortage as reported in the Blue Ribbon Task Force Final Report of 2015. Governor Dennis Daugaard established the committee to examine the state’s teacher shortage problems and found that the state struggles both in rural areas and in certain subjects like math. In response, the state has invested in new mentoring, created a New Teachers Academy, increased teacher salaries across the board and increased funding for National Board Certification.
California’s unique case shows that the state’s teacher market appears to be correcting itself of the shortage it faces. California has suffered a shortage in inner-city and low-income schools specifically in areas like special education, math and science. In response, Governor Jerry Brown set forth budget package entitled “Proposition 98.” The state put a greater focus on areas with persistent shortages, offered bonus’ for teachers who teach in those areas, created tuition programs and reengaged former teachers.
The National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research explains that teacher production has grown steadily since 1985, and most of the teacher shortages are indicative of the overall state of the economy. Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, South Dakota and California are all areas that are experiencing teacher shortages right now, but policymakers and task groups are working hard to find solutions in financial incentives, induction, mentoring, teacher leadership and marketing.