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Is There a Teacher Shortage in Massachusetts?

July 18, 2019

Insights from the School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College

Recent studies have reported that a shortage of teachers is occurring, or about to occur, in states across the country. While more acute in other parts of the country, Massachusetts faces potential shortages in areas such as English as a Second Language, Special Education, STEM courses (science, technology, engineering, and math) and foreign languages. Because of this expected shortage, teachers can expect a healthy job outlook in Massachusetts.  There is projected growth for teachers at the kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school level. The teacher shortage has also led to more career opportunities for teachers who pursue their master’s in education degree.

Studies on Teacher Shortages

There is a wealth of information about teacher shortages. One of the most dramatic recent reports came from the Economic Policy Institute, which recently published the first report in what it is calling “The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market” series. The report warns that “the teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought.” The report notes that there have been “critical signals” indicating teacher shortages in recent years. These signals include data indicating vacant positions in certain subject areas in some states and fewer people enrolling in teacher preparation programs.

The Economic Policy Institute quotes a 2016 Learning Policy Institute report that estimated a shortage of 110,000 teachers by the 2017-2018 school year. They also project the gap will stay at that level for years to come. Further, the teacher shortage is “much more severe than previously recognized” when the unequal distribution of qualified teachers is considered. In other words, many of the poorer districts have to use less qualified educators in order to fill the shortage of teachers.

Impact of Teacher Shortages 

The obvious impact of the teacher shortage is on the students who are not getting instruction from qualified teachers.  There are financial repercussions, as well. The cost of filling a teaching vacancy, including recruiting and training expenses, is about $21,000 on average, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The total cost of teacher turnover is more than $7 billion per year. That’s money that could be going to needed educational programs or better teacher pay. In some cases, states are recruiting teachers who were trained in other states. For example, Rhode Island is considering importing teachers who have been certified in Massachusetts to fill the state’s many vacancies for ESL teachers, according to The Guardian.    

Diversifying Teacher Workforce 

The teacher shortage is reflected in the job projection numbers for teachers in Massachusetts, which can be found on Projections Central, a site that uses numbers from the federal government to make state-by-state job projections. The projections for Massachusetts call for about an 11% increase in demand for teachers at all levels. More diversity is also needed. On its website, the Massachusetts’ Department of Education points out the state is continuously looking to get more people involved in education. They want more teachers who are:

  • Male
  • Latino
  • African American
  • Asian
  • Licensed to teach in middle and secondary school

For those seeking a master’s degree in education in Massachusetts, the expected teacher shortage will increase the number of job opportunities. Teachers who earn a graduate degree from Merrimack College should find themselves in demand with an edge on the competition for the best jobs.