This week, Florida’s State Board of Education will adopt its 2019-20 list of Critical Teacher Shortage Areas. Among other things, the report includes the number of students who completed the state’s approved college- and university-based teacher preparation programs in 2016-17 and the anticipated number of teacher vacancies in the 2018-19 school year. A comparison of those two sets of numbers (as shown above) provides an estimate of how well the teacher preparation programs are meeting the demand for teachers in different subjects. For example, the graph above estimates that the teacher preparation programs are providing only 5.5% of the needed teachers in the physical sciences, which includes both chemistry and physics (9 program completers vs. 164 vacancies). The teacher prep programs are also only providing 19.6% of the needed math teachers.
But there are always severe shortages of math and science teachers. What jumped off the graph to me was that the teacher prep programs are now – for the first time – failing to meet the demand for elementary school teachers. The Critical Teacher Shortage Area report gives 1,845 graduates of teacher preparation programs in elementary education but 2,752 vacancies. That is, the teacher prep programs are producing only 67% of the graduates needed in elementary education.
The graphs below show how the numbers of vacancies and program completers have evolved during the last five years for four teaching categories (only four years are shown for physical science because it was not listed as a separate category until 2016). It is important to note that the x-axis in each plot is the year the critical teacher shortage area report was issued, and not the year for which the vacancies and program completers are listed. The report being approved this week – shown in the graphs as “2019” – includes teaching vacancies for the 2018-19 school year and the students completing teacher prep program during the 2016-17 academic year. So the program completer numbers are actually two years behind the vacancy numbers.
But the trend in the number of elementary education program completers is clear – it is declining.
There are a few other trends in these graphs that are concerning.
First, the numbers of vacancies for elementary ed, math and English all jumped significantly this year.
Second, the number of vacancies for chemistry and physics teachers (listed here as “physical science”) is declining sharply.
I have no explanation for either of these trends.
It is also worth noting that the State Board of Education will adopt the Critical Teacher Shortage Area report in its consent agenda. There will almost certainly be no discussion of the issue.