There’s been a lot of ink spilled over what’s been framed as a national shortage of teachers, including fears of a coronavirus-related mass exodus from classrooms that have never quite materialized.
Fewer words have been spent on defining what, precisely, is meant when people say the education system is facing a drought of teachers from coast to coast.
That’s what researchers at Kansas State University set out to quantify when they began crunching the numbers on teacher vacancies for all 50 states. A problem that became apparent early on was that there simply was no central source for the information they were seeking — even at the state level.
Researchers painstakingly pieced together data from a swath of government sources and news reports, cataloging more recent data from the 2021-22 school year for some states but having to reach as far back as 2014-15 for others. For 13 states, their search yielded no data about teacher vacancies.
At what point, exactly, does the ratio of teacher vacancies to students signal a shortage? Tuan D. Nguyen, an assistant professor at Kansas State University’s College of Education, says there’s no consensus about when the rate of vacancies tips into a crisis.
“That’s one of the things that I think that we — this includes researchers and policy makers and the public — have to decide,” Nguyen says. “At what level do we think it is an issue? You have to take into account