Report: teacher positions decline, vacancies steady

ROCK HILL, SC — Schools across South Carolina continue to meet the demands of teaching more than 700,000 students with fewer classroom teachers for the second consecutive year, according to the annual Teacher/Administrator Supply and Demand Survey released today by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement.

Teacher supply and demand in South Carolina has been quite similar for the last two school years. The number of vacant positions and teachers hired has dropped significantly since the 2008-2009 school year during which the state's economic situation worsened and districts' resources were reduced. While districts are not hiring as many teachers and fewer positions are available, the state must continue to recruit highly qualified, effective teachers.

CERRA, the nation's oldest and most-established teacher recruitment organization located at Winthrop University, suggests recruitment efforts should focus particularly on middle and high school teachers certified in special education, mathematics, science, and English/language arts as these subject areas consistently represent the majority of unfilled teacher positions each year.

With an average of 5,400 public school teachers leaving their classrooms each year since 2001, a continuous need for teachers will exist in our state.

"Over the past several years district administrators have consistently communicated the extraordinary intricacies of predicting human capital and the best, most efficient use of available resources as funding for education continues to decrease," said Gayle Sawyer, Ph. D, CERRA Executive Director. "As national data have become available, we have noted that South Carolina's figures reflect distressing national hiring trends."

Much like last year, districts continue to eliminate positions and programs to account for funding shortages. For the 2010-2011 school year, districts reported 48,744.71 allocated teacher slots, a decrease of 2,145 positions from last school year and 3,676 from the 2008-2009 school year. The largest proportion -- 45 percent -- of all eliminated teacher slots was in the primary/elementary schools. Reductions at the high school level accounted for 38 percent of positions lost, and of those, over half were in English and mathematics combined.

Finally, 21 percent of all unfunded positions reported for this school year were attributable to reductions in middle schools. Almost 65 percent of these reductions were in language arts and science combined.

The total number of teachers hired in South Carolina's public school districts and special schools this year was 3,514.59, approximately 105 fewer hires compared to last school year and the lowest number of teachers hired since 2001 when CERRA began conducting the annual Teacher/Administrator Supply and Demand Survey.

Districts reported 189.75 vacant teacher positions at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, which is a reduction of just 14 vacancies compared to last year. While high schools held the largest share -- 42.7 percent -- of unfilled teacher positions this school year, the actual number of vacancies at the high school level dropped by 26 percent.

In what continues to be a disturbing trend, a total of 4,612.8 teachers did not return to their classrooms for the 2010-2011 school year. While this is a reduction of only 40 from last year's 4,652.5 teachers who decided to move on for a number of reasons, the turnover in districts is detrimental to efforts aimed at improving student achievement.

More than one out of every five teachers who did not return to their classrooms this year retired from the profession. This number is a 23 percent drop compared to the 1,258 teachers who retired at the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

Approximately 11 percent of teachers who left their classrooms are teaching in another South Carolina district. Including these teachers who transferred to another district, nearly 20 percent of teachers who left their classrooms last year are still employed in the education profession in South Carolina or another state.

This is the 10th year CERRA has compiled this report.

Copyright 2010 WCSC. All rights reserved.