(The Center Square) – New research on teacher demand highlights the lack of information on teacher shortages at all levels of government.

A Brown University working paper found that “teacher shortages are still poorly understood, and it remains unclear if there is a nationwide teacher shortage or if the shortages are localized. – a key element of the current debate on teacher shortages”.

The authors – Tuan Nguyen and Chanh Lam of Kansas State University and Paul Bruno of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – collected information on shortages across the country. After reviewing information from all 50 states, the authors estimated the extent of the shortage.

“Some of the math at the bottom of the envelope implies that teaching vacancies amount to 1.67% of positions nationally and that about 5.16% of positions are filled by undergraduate teachers. qualified”, according to the work document.

The report found 11 states “with a clear vacancy.” These states were Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah. It further found 26 states plus Washington D.C. “with less clear vacancy” and 13 states “with unknown vacancy”.

However, the authors pointed out that the extent of the teacher shortage remains uncertain.

“While we present what we believe to be the most comprehensive national evidence to date on the extent of teacher shortages, perhaps the most important finding of our analyzes is data limitations,” they said. writing. “…In sum, what our data cannot tell us about teacher shortage is in many ways more important than what it can tell us.”

The authors recommend more robust reporting at all levels to provide more insight into the extent of supply and demand issues, which they say “have been known to vary widely, even for different positions at the same school. “.

“While there are many political and news reports about teacher shortages, these often focus on specific districts or states, and so far there have been no reports. concerted and systematic effort to examine what teacher shortages look like on a national scale.This hampers research into teacher shortages and complicates potential policy efforts to address them, for example by making it difficult to know whether what to do and how to encourage prospective teachers to complete teacher preparation programs and accept jobs in schools experiencing shortages,” the authors wrote.

The paper also drew attention to other data issues around potential shortages, including inconsistencies in the definition of teaching vacancies.

“Some parties (e.g. economists) may use the term ‘shortage’ to refer to a situation where there are not enough candidate teachers to fill available positions, while others (e.g. school administrators) may use the term “shortage” to refer to situations where they wish there were more or better candidates,” the authors wrote.

The authors recommend that state policymakers make available school-level data on teacher qualifications, require districts to include detailed information on staffing shortages and school-level qualifications in public report cards. school and that districts or other state authorities maintain and make available employment data. postings and unfilled teaching positions. The authors further recommend that these figures be put in context with the size of the school system or the vacancy rate per 10,000 students.

“The apparent severity of teacher shortages can vary widely depending on whether the numbers are expressed in raw numbers or relative to the size of the school system,” they wrote in the working paper.

Concerns expressed in the national study have been echoed by another research organization examining teacher shortages in Michigan. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan reported in 2019 and again in 2022 that a lack of data has confounded research efforts on the teacher shortage in that state.

“Early warnings of teacher shortages in some districts and areas may portend a broader trend that will affect schools across the state, but statewide analysis of the issue is made more difficult. by the lack of relevant data on existing, former, and potential Michigan teaching professionals,” the Citizens Research Council reported in 2019. “Understanding and addressing actual and potential shortages is hampered by the lack of clear data Michigan has not prioritized the study of this labor market and the issue of shortages, so the analysis is somewhat hampered by a dearth of available, timely information and relevant.

The nonprofit research organization said the issues had not been resolved by 2022.

“In terms of bad news (or not so good news), the State of Michigan is making these new investments without a clear and complete understanding of the nature and extent of the various staffing challenges facing local districts,” said the citizens. The Research Council wrote in August 2022. “This is due, in large part, to the state’s failure to invest in the data and information systems necessary to quantify the true extent of the problems to solve.”