Maryland faces a worsening teacher shortage that will culminate in two years with the state having to hire the equivalent of nearly a quarter of its current teaching force, new estimates show.
The shortage in the next few years will be more severe than predicted a few months ago, according to updated projections released yesterday by the Maryland Department of Education.
Local school systems had to hire 8,900 new teachers last fall, at least 200 more than anticipated, and they will have to scramble to find another 10,350 teachers before the start of the next school year, state figures show. By the 2003-2004 school year, the state predicts that as many as 12,715 additional teachers will be needed that year - triple the number hired six years ago and almost a quarter the size of Maryland's 55,000-teacher work force.
"Our need for new teachers over the next few years apparently will continue to meet our strongest fears," state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said in a statement. She added that the state is working "to put in place systems that will keep our schools staffed not just with teachers but with quality teachers."
Schools across the nation are searching for teachers to keep pace with rising student enrollments and to cut class sizes. In Maryland, the demand has been exacerbated by limits on how long uncertified teachers can remain in the classroom - and by the number of "baby boom" teachers who are reaching retirement age.
The latest projections show that more than 22,000 teachers will be eligible for retirement in 2003 - compared with 8,950 in 1999 - with a total of 36,360 reaching retirement age by the end of the decade.
However, the state education department estimates that the rise in teacher retirements will be offset to some degree by a declining overall school enrollment beginning in the middle of the decade. The state's demand for teachers is expected to peak during the 2003-2004 school year before lessening as enrollment starts to drop, particularly in elementary schools.