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Washington, D.C. - January 19, 1999 - The nation's largest urban school districts are faced with severe teacher shortages in critical subject areas that are projected to continue through the next five years. And with serious cracks in the "teacher pipeline," exactly where districts will find faculty to meet these escalating demands is anyone's guess, according to a report released today by Recruiting New Teachers (RNT), the Council of Great City Schools, and the Council of the Great City Colleges of Education.
The shortages are most pervasive in mathematics and science, areas where U.S. graduates lag far behind their international peers. Virtually all of the nation's largest urban school districts responding to a national survey reported immediate needs for mathematics (95 percent), science (98 percent), and special education teachers (98 percent). Shortages in these areas are followed closely by shortages in bilingual education (73 percent), English as a second language (68 percent), and educational technology (68 percent), according to the report, The Urban Teacher Challenge.
The report, which surveys 40 of the (then) 54 school districts in the Council of the Great City Schools, finds that while the fields experiencing shortages have remained the same, urban districts seem to be experiencing a higher demand for teachers in these fields than was reported in 1996. Collectively, the districts surveyed are home to over 5.5 million students - more than 10 percent of the nation's public school enrollment - and over 325,000 teachers.
The report also highlights the urgent need for more minority teachers in urban districts surveyed, where students of color make up approximately 69 percent of total student enrollment, but only 36 percent of the teaching force. Nearly three quarters of responding districts reported an immediate need for teachers of color (72.5 percent), which is especially troubling considering that 70 percent of districts already use special recruitment efforts to attract prospective minority teachers and 95 percent are recruiting at historically black and/or Hispanic colleges.
"Students in underserved schools are doubly disadvantaged when they don't have teachers qualified to teach challenging subjects," according to David Haselkorn, president of Recruiting New Teachers, Inc. "Unfortunately the teaching shortage in urban schools has grown even worse over the last three years. As teachers retire and children of the baby boomers enroll, urban schools are scrambling to find teachers. We desperately need more people willing to teach mathematics, science, and special education in the nation's cities."
See Figure 1 below.
"The nation must make a concerted effort to attract more and more highly qualified teachers to urban classrooms if we are to provide opportunity for the one fourth of our students who attend urban schools," says Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council ofthe Great City Schools.
Addressing the Problems: What Urban School Districts Are Doing
The nation's largest school districts have pioneered the use of special recruitment efforts aimed at luring qualified candidates to the classroom. Districts are also working harder on retaining and developing the teachers they do have.
* Nearly two thirds of urban school districts surveyed now offer induction and support programs (67.5 percent) to keep talented new teachers in the classroom.
* Nearly as many offer alternative routes to teacher certification (65 percent) to bring professionals with backgrounds in shortage subject areas into the classroom.
* Meanwhile, almost as many districts offer on-the-spot contracts to hire teachers without the waiting or red tape that in the past often resulted in teachers not taking jobs in urban schools.
* Virtually all urban districts (95 percent) are recruiting at historically black/Hispanic colleges to address minority teacher shortages.
* Districts also are offering financial incentives for teaching in high-need subject areas.
In an attempt to counter the shortages, urban districts also are moving to bolster teaching ranks in shortage areas with a range of stopgap measures, often including the hiring of noncertified teachers. More than four out of five (82.5 percent) districts now allow noncredentialed individuals to teach. Sixty percent allow teachers to work under emergency permits, and 60 percent also use long-term substitutes. Certification waivers and internship programs and permits are now used in 37.5 and 35 percent of districts, respectively.
What Urban Colleges of Education Are Doing
The Urban Teacher Challenge also reveals serious problems with the supply of teachers coming from the nation's colleges of education - the primary source for qualified teaching candidates. Despite the extreme shortages in specific subject areas, teacher education students continue to be most interested in fields already well supplied with teachers. A separate study of 45 of the (then) 54 members of the Council of Great City Colleges of Education found that students at more than half had low interest in becoming mathematics and foreign language teachers (55.6 and 53.3 percent), and students at almost half (44 percent) had low interest in pursuing science.
Instead, the strongest interest was reported in the already well-staffed areas of elementary education/multi-subject (86.7 percent), social studies/history (68.9 percent), early childhood (62.2 percent).
"Because urban school districts have had to confront the most significant teacher shortages, they also are on the forefront of developing new strategies and enlisting colleges and universities to help provide necessary support and training for unlicensed teachers," according to Casserly.
For their part, urban colleges of education have taken action to realign their supply with the growing demand in certain fields by employing a wide range of incentives aimed at attracting candidates to high-need areas. Currently, 84 percent of schools have special placement programs or other incentives to interest their graduates in urban teaching positions, and nearly three fourths (73.3 percent) place curricular emphasis on teaching in urban schools. Other incentives to attract candidates to high-need teaching areas include career counseling (64.4 percent), assistance for licensure exams (56.6 percent), and special financial aid programs (26.7 percent).
"This study documents the urgent need to direct more teacher education students into urban areas," said Phil Rusche, dean of the School of Education, University of California, Northridge, and Chair of the Great City Colleges of Education. "Colleges are already pioneering programs and incentives to encourage prospective teachers to teach in urban and high-need areas. Now the time has come to scale up these programs in a comprehensive way."
Colleges of education are targeting nontraditional students of color by offering alternative routes to certification, including apprenticeship/internship programs, part-time programs, evening programs, off-campus programs, and summer programs. Four out of five institutions (82.2 percent) offer financial aid, nearly three out of five (57.8 percent) tuition assistance, and about two out of five provide stipends (40 percent) and loan forgiveness (37.8 percent). Meanwhile, nearly nine in ten (87 percent) are actively recruiting ethnic and racial minorities (with over half offering special incentives or support). Four out of five (80 percent) are recruiting students from bilingual/bicultural backgrounds (with 42 percent offering special services and incentives for these groups).
This report was prepared by Recruiting New Teachers (RNT), the
Council of the Great City Schools, and the Council of the Great
City Colleges of Education, who work together as the Urban Teacher
Collaborative, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New
York and the Ford Foundation.
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