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Long Island, most of NY do not face teacher shortage, report says

Eighth-grade students in a science classroom at Longwood

Eighth-grade students in a science classroom at Longwood Junior High School in Middle Island on Jan. 15, 2016. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Public schools on Long Island and in most other areas of the state do not face an overall shortage of teachers, despite what some recent news accounts have suggested, the New York State School Boards Association said Wednesday.

To the contrary, the state appears to have an “overabundance” of candidates for teaching jobs in elementary grades, with shortages appearing only in a few specialty areas, such as bilingual and special education, the school boards group said.

A report issued Wednesday by the organization — titled “Teacher Shortage? What Teacher Shortage” — looked at qualifications of teachers working in 20 subject areas, ranged alphabetically from art to trade education. Figures were for 2015 and 2016, depending upon region, and were the latest available.

In Nassau and Suffolk counties, the report found that 99 percent or more of teachers were fully certified to provide instruction in 16 of the fields listed. The only subject area where the percentage of teachers with less than full credentials exceeded 4 percent was bilingual education, where the figure was 8.2 percent.

Analysts consider certification data a key indicator of teacher availability, because shortages could force schools to hire candidates who might be credentialed to teach in some areas but not in the ones specifically sought.

“For Long Island, really, you can see the lack of uncertified teachers is very low across-the-board, except possibly in the area of bilingual education,” said David Albert, a state school boards spokesman who edited the report.

Albert said his organization’s study of certification numbers and other data was prompted in part by recent articles in national and statewide publications, bearing such headlines as “The Teacher Shortage Crisis is Here.” He noted that this is the season when many districts, with their budgets passed, are actively recruiting teachers.

Locally, many districts report that they continue to receive a hundred applications or more for every elementary teaching job that opens up. Such is the case in Mineola, where Superintendent Michael Nagler said that, nonetheless, he faces problems in hiring that did not exist 10 years ago.

“I used to be able to get 20 substitute teachers, no problem,” Nagler said. “If I could get four substitutes this year, it was a lot.”

Albert and other analysts cautioned that a recent decline in college students training to become teachers, combined with other demographic factors, could lead to future shortages.

“We have enough teachers right now,” said Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, a statewide union group. “But there is a looming crisis.”

The state Board of Regents and the Education Department are looking at ways to make the teacher certification process less burdensome while maintaining strong standards to ensure that candidates are well-qualified for the classroom.

“Commissioner [MaryEllen] Elia has said repeatedly that the teaching profession, more so than any other, determines our future,” department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said. “She has traveled the state with SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher as part of the TeachNY initiative, meeting with representatives of higher education, teachers and others to create bold new teacher and leader preparation policy for decades to come for our schools and our students.”

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