The Teacher Shortage Crisis Is Always “Coming”

The Learning Policy Institute, created by Linda Darling-Hammond, issued a report on teacher shortages to coincide with its day-long forum on the topic in Washington DC. It even has a hashtag. This prompted the usual alarm and demand for solutions. The top story on Politico‘s Morning Education is headlined “The coming teacher shortage crisis.”

My analysis of teacher shortages has been consistent for a very long time – about as long as we’ve been hearing about teacher shortages. But it’s hopeless. The teacher shortage crisis has been “coming” since the early 1990s. I suppose it will get here eventually. While we’re waiting, here’s a graph from the National Center for Education Statistics showing the pupil-teacher ratio for the last 10 years for which we have comprehensive data.

If you prefer text:

The number of students per teacher, or the pupil/teacher ratio, has generally been decreasing over more than 50 years at both public and private schools. In fall 1955, there were 1.1 million public and 145,000 private elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States. By fall 2013, these numbers had nearly tripled to 3.1 million for public school teachers and to 441,000 for private school teachers. However, increases in student enrollment were proportionally smaller over this period: from 30.7 million to 50.0 million public school students (a 63 percent increase) and from 4.6 million to 5.4 million private school students (a 17 percent increase). For public schools, the pupil/teacher ratio fell from 26.9 in 1955 to 15.9 in 2003. The ratio continued this decline until 2008, when it dropped to 15.3. In the years after 2008, the pupil/teacher ratio rose, reaching 16.1 in 2013.

But there’s no stopping a tidal wave of political activism with a sand wall of historical data. The teacher shortage is coming. Run for your lives.