Why a Teacher “Shortage”?


This originally ran two weeks ago, and yet we’re still talking about the issue. It’s almost as if there’s some sort of real problem.

August is apparently our month to contemplate a teacher shortage. Or reports of a teacher shortage. Or a completely fabricated teacher shortage. The issue has had play all the way from the blogoverseto the New York Times to the Ed Week blog department.

What nobody seems to be able to answer is why, exactly, we’re having this conversation? What is causing the shortage– or at least the repeated reporting of one. What is the actual problem?

It’s Teachers Bailing Out

One repeated argument is that the shortage isn’t anything special, but teachers and reform-resistors are exaggerating in order to argue that bad policies are driving teachers out of the field. Every anguished “Why I Am Leaving Teaching” column is just a crowbar with which to whack away at the reformster machinery.

This is an odd argument, like saying to someone you’re beating up, “Oh, you’re just crying because you want me to stop punching you in the face.” Well, yeah.

But it’s not just teachers making the point. The state of Arizona ran a study on recruitment and retention and came up with suggestions like “treat teachers with respect.”

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