When the teacher shortage myth might not be a myth

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An Oklahoma TV station recently reported on a first grade classroom that hasn't had a teacher since January. The district plans to remedy this problem, which they attribute to teacher shortages, by bringing in first and second grade teachers six days a week to get the students up to speed.

The numbers suggest that this is another case of the teacher shortage myth. According to the most recent state labor and teacher production data, only about 700 of the 1,200 or so elementary teachers graduated by colleges and universities in Oklahoma in 2011 would have been hired, so there should be recent grads available to step in, not to mention graduates from previous years who never found teaching jobs.

Then again, numbers don't always tell the whole story. It may be that there is an overproduction of elementary teachers on paper, but that some teachers never enter the classroom after graduation. Recent grads may be drawn to non-teaching careers with higher starting salaries, or they might have felt discouraged by their student teaching experiences. Whatever the graduates' reasoning, the hard work of recruitment lies with districts, but it's incumbent upon the whole field to make sure that teachers are prepared, compensated, and supported in a way that makes teaching an appealing career choice.