New York State School Boards Association

Teacher shortages most acute in science, other hard-to-staff subjects

by Paul Heiser

On Board Online • June 12, 2017

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

Nearly six in 10 school districts in New York lack adequate numbers of science teachers, according to a survey of school superintendents conducted by NYSSBA.

Fifty-nine percent of superintendents said their districts have experienced a shortage of qualified teachers in science over the past year. The shortage is particularly acute for teachers of physics and chemistry at the high school level.

"What the survey found was that teacher shortages in New York exist largely in such hard-to-staff subjects as science, math, special education, English as a second language, bilingual education, foreign languages and technology," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "We also found that shortages aren't necessarily widespread across the state, but are found mostly in New York City and in smaller, more rural locales."

NYSSBA conducted the survey of school superintendents to discern the extent to which schools were having a hard time finding teachers in any subjects. The survey was sent to 630 superintendents in February 2017 and received 275 responses - a return rate of 44 percent.

Statewide, there were eight subjects in which 10 percent or more of responding superintendents said there was a shortage of qualified teachers. Special education (42 percent) and foreign languages (39 percent) had 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/English as a second language/English as a new language (32 percent), math (29 percent), library media specialist (20 percent), and home economics (15 percent).

The survey also identified subjects in which teacher shortages were rare. Only 1.1 percent of superintendents indicated having difficulty finding qualified physical education teachers over the past year, while only 1.5 percent had trouble staffing early childhood positions. Other subjects with the lowest percentages of superintendents indicating shortages were reading (2.2 percent), art (2.5 percent), health (2.5 percent), social studies (2.9 percent) and elementary grades (3.3 percent).

The findings from this survey are included in a new NYSSBA research report entitled "Teacher Shortage? What Teacher Shortage?" The report explores in-depth the subjects and areas where teacher shortages pose the greatest challenges. The report is on the NYSSBA website at /.

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