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Another school year, another teacher shortage

As schools across New York welcome students back for another year, they continue to grapple with the ongoing teacher shortage. The inability to find qualified applicants for certain subjects has left many districts without certified teachers.

That does not mean no one is teaching those subjects. Paul Heiser, a senior research analyst with the New York State School Boards Association, said it just means that the school district had to hire a teacher for that class who is not certified in the subject.

"The teacher definitely - in most cases - has certification credentials, but not in that particular subject," Heiser said. "It’s generally a teacher who is existing in the school district who is being shifted from one subject to another to help fill in where there are gaps."

A survey from the New York State School Boards Association was sent to 630 school superintendents on Feb. 23 and 275 responded. There were eight subjects in which 10 percent or more of responding superintendents statewide said there was a shortage of qualified teachers (Figure 2):

  • Nearly six in 10 superintendents (59 percent) said they had difficulty finding qualified teachers in one or more science specialties, particularly physics, chemistry and earth science.
  • Special education (42 percent) and foreign languages (39 percent) garnered the second and third highest percentages of superintendents who indicated a teacher shortage exists in their districts.
  • Rounding out the top eight were technology (34 percent), English language learners (ELL)/English as a second language (ESL)/English as a new language (ENL) (32 percent), math (29 percent), library media specialist (20 percent) and home economics (15 percent).

Buffalo Public Schools recently traveled to Puerto Rico to recruit bilingual teachers in an effort to address a steady influx of Spanish-speaking students to the district. The NYSSBA said other recruiting efforts should include addressing pay differentials, mining teacher hiring data and using social media to connect with candidates.
Across New York, the NYSSBA suggested making the teacher certification process more flexible and making it easier for school district to hire part-time teachers and teachers certified in other states.

Heiser said it is not all bad news. NYSSBA reviewed federal teacher shortage data from 2011 and found that there are fewer subjects with teachers shortages in New York in 2017.

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