Shortage fatigue

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By the second paragraph of a recent Los Angeles Times article citing declining enrollments at teacher prep programs due to showers of pink slips on local teachers, the story arcs to an all too familiar warning of dire teacher shortages in K-12 classrooms. We wonder why frequent predictions of impending teacher shortages seem to defy journalism's "dog bites man" story filter.

Drops in the number of teaching credentials awarded in California are indeed dramatic (29 percent), but they have been going on for some time (five years)--well before the recession. The executive director of the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing laments that "it's kind of difficult to encourage people to become teachers when every year this time of year they hear about 20,000 pink slips going out." True. But encouraging enrollments seems like a bad idea on the face of it: Current supplies of most teachers are ample (except in subject areas with perennial shortages), demand is not expected to increase until 2016 at the earliest (and even then, not by much in the L.A. district), and teacher prep has a fairly fast turnaround.

Meanwhile we'll fantasize about reading about a more reasoned response to downturns: Administrators at teacher preparation programs say they are breathing a sigh of relief. Ann Smith, dean of a local Cal State education school explained "I am anxious to take advantage of this drop in enrollment to strengthen aspects of our program--such as arrangements for field placements--that are so problematic when we are flooded by teacher candidates, many of whom will not choose to teach or will not be hired."