Chronic teacher shortage continuing, state report says The city and other poor jurisdictions hard pressed to fill teaching jobs.

September 27, 1991|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

Maryland's chronic teacher shortage continues, a new state report says, with Baltimore and other poorer jurisdictions especially hard-pressed to fill teaching jobs.

The report, presented to the state Board of Education this week, projects a statewide shortage of 376 teachers this school year, and a 354 in the 1992-93 school year.

Hardest hit are five of the state's poorest jurisdictions, which have a "critical shortage" of teachers: the city and Somerset, St. Mary's, Garrett and Caroline counties.

All were cited in last year's report. They still have relatively low salaries and per-pupil education spending, which make it difficult for them to hire and retain teachers.

Meanwhile, the state still comes up short for teachers in a number of critical subject areas, including special education, math and science.

Though enrollments are up in teacher-education programs around the state, "chronic problems still exist," the report states, particularly in the availability of minority teachers.

The shortage is all-too-familiar to Baltimore administrators.

A.W. Strickland, the new director of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, the city's math and science high school, has been unable to fill teaching posts in chemistry, physics and foreign languages.

"When you don't fill them, it increases the class size and the load on the other teachers as well," Strickland said. "It really demeans the performance level."

He said hiring one teacher would let him cut the average chemistry class size from 35 to 25 students.

"I don't think we're facing a crisis," said Nancy S. Grasmick, state school superintendent. "I think there probably are solutions that we haven't pursued."

In particular, she cited a new state program smoothing the way for college graduates who did not major in education to become certified teachers.

Grasmick said low teacher pay is a big reason why poor jurisdictions have trouble finding teachers.

The report is the seventh survey of teacher supply and is used in administering a state scholarship program intended to reduce shortages.

Officials base their teacher supply forecast on the number of new hires in the previous year, along with a series of factors intended to predict the demand for teachers in the coming two years.

The report cites a "critical shortage" in five subject areas: special education, foreign languages, mathematics, four categories of science, and trades and industry.

For example, the report projects that local school districts will need 469 new special education teachers this school year, but estimates they will be able to hire only 296. Such teachers work with mentally and physically disabled students.

The situation is projected to be even worse in the 1992-93 school year, with 292 new hires and a demand for 493 teachers.

"The special education shortage has still not been satisfactorily addressed, nor have the persistent shortages in math and science," the report said. "These have been present for at least five years."

The report also pinpointed a surprising shortage of social science teachers, which may reflect a large number of retirements.

Among the hopeful trends is "a slow but steady increase of hiring of new teachers." Last year, 2,692 new teachers were hired in the state, up 3.5 percent from the year before.

The report also found the proportion of new teachers who were minorities increased in the last school year. Minority teachers made up 17.5 percent of new hires compared with 14 percent the year before.

But overall, minorities made up a slightly smaller share of the state's teachers last year. The total dropped 0.8 percent last year, while the minority enrollment rose.

Grasmick said Maryland may need to be aggressive in recruiting teachers for critical subjects, and in promoting teaching as a profession. That can be particularly important in recruiting minorities who otherwise might be drawn into more lucrative corporate careers, she said.

The report found that a slightly higher percentage of new teachers were hired from out of state last year.

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