Why There Is A Teacher Shortage?

During a recent conversation with Dr. Keith Dils, Dean College of Education at Slippery Rock University we discussed the current teacher shortage across the nation. For me it is a repeat of what I experienced in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, when there was also a crisis in finding professionally certified teachers. Apparently history is repeating itself. The following is what Dr. Dils shared with me about the current situation.—Herb Hunt


Dr. Keith Dils, Dean College of Education Slippery Rock University

There has been a drop in the number of teacher certifications awarded in PA because there has been a drop in the number of students picking education as a major. The reason less freshmen pick education as a major, and are less likely to pursue teaching, if you want my opinion, is that there was quite a bit of demonizing of teachers these last few years.  Teachers were unfairly being blamed for many of the country’s economic and social ills.  The testing craze and the attempt to peg teachers as the sole factor in how students performed in schools and the use of standardized, “bubble” tests was also patently unfair—and STUDENTS knew it.  And, students, of course, are our pipeline of new teachers. 

Now that the pendulum of the testing craze has really started to swing back to more reasonable approaches, I’m hopeful that students will start to see that their teachers’ evaluations are conducted, and their value determined, with better and more reasonable approaches.  When our students see their teachers supported, treated fairly, and generally held in higher esteem, then those students with the calling to teach will start to pursue certification in the numbers we’ve seen in the past.  In the meantime, we have a teacher shortage that is a crisis in many parts of the country—even in parts of Pennsylvania.  In areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, I am told they are being forced to provide emergency certifications at rates we have not seen.  I get calls on a weekly basis for us to send our graduates to apply for openings in schools in the region and beyond.  Our students, in many cases, have their pick of jobs both in state and out —- PA is now competing to keep our teacher education graduates in state.  

The ramifications of less students earning certification are that we are losing valuable talent—we are losing the people who have the calling to teach, and would have picked teacher preparation in college and pursued the systematic study of the content and the pedagogy needed to be an effective teacher if only they had seen reasonable treatment and more support for THEIR teachers.

Thankfully, at Slippery Rock University we’ve had success despite these obstacles—-we currently produce the fourth most teachers in the state of Pennsylvania out of 93 universities with teacher education programs. And, we also have programs like our recently grant funded ($1.2 million) Troops to Teachers program designed for those career changers who now want to come back to pursue their calling.  So, for example, those who may have studied math, English, foreign language, or science  as an undergraduate (both Troops and civilians) and now would like to change careers and pursue teaching certification, we have high-quality programs that are tailored and convenient for folks in that situation.  This, we are hopeful, will help to get folks into the career they always wanted and also fill the teacher shortage need.—Dr. Keith Dils


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