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News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2002

Teacher Quality Suffers When Supply is Inadequate

Illinois will need to hire about 55,000 new teachers, including about 33,000 first-time teachers, and 3,500 new administrators over the next four years, but unless the supply unexpectedly outpaces demand, there will not be enough high quality candidates to give districts many choices, according to a State Board of Education report released today.

The "2001 Educator Supply and Demand" report presented at the State Board's monthly meeting in Chicago draws a troubling picture for Illinois schools and mirrors a national trend. Demand exceeds the available supply of teachers partly because of early-career teacher flight, retirement, increasing competition for teacher candidates from other states and the private sector, and decreasing interest in education careers among young people.

Shrinking Pool. The problem goes far beyond ensuring there are enough teachers to fill the vacancies, however. The size of the teacher pool from which districts can select is shrinking. The quality of teachers in the classrooms suffers when districts have fewer choices and less opportunity to find the best-qualified candidates for their positions.

"With teacher supply and demand we need to do more than come out even," State Superintendent of Education Ernest Wish said. "Our pool of candidates must be broad and deep enough to ensure that multiple high-quality candidates are competing for each position. We do not want our schools to have to 'settle' for a teacher who is only partly qualified or who otherwise might not be the best match for a position just because no one else is available."

More than 42,000 Illinois public school students faced the very real possibility that there would be no qualified teachers in their classrooms when the 2000-2001 school year began. Of the 2,637 unfilled vacancies in the fall 2000, 2,225 were teaching positions.

Half the vacancies were in the Chicago public schools, 28 percent were in the suburban districts of Cook, Lake, Kane, Dupage, McHenry and Will counties, and 22 percent were spread throughout the rest of the state. The remaining unfilled positions were principals and other administrators, counselors, nurses, social workers and other student support staff. Data on unfilled positions for the 2001-2002 school year are still being collected.

The competition for would-be teachers is growing significantly. Undergraduate enrollment in teacher preparation programs dropped by 10 percent last year. This year's figures not yet available. Even once they become teachers, many individuals are lured away immediately and others leave in their early years at alarming rates.

About half the new teachers produced in Illinois each year never make it into the state's public school classrooms. Other states are offering financial incentives, including signing bonuses and housing allowances, to attract teachers. Private schools are a favorable option for some individuals. Business and industry recruit teachers as well, especially those in the areas of mathematics, science and computer science.

Attrition: Teacher Flight and Retirements. The overall rate at which teachers leave the profession has increased by 60 percent since 1996. While retirement accounts for about 23 percent of teacher attrition, more than 75 percent of teachers who leave do so for reasons other than retirement.

Early-career flight, for example, is having a significant impact on the teaching force. Teachers with less than five years of experience leave the profession at relatively high rates - between 8% and 11% per year. Related studies indicate that Illinois loses about 30% of its teachers in the first 3 years on the job. Although their specific reasons are not known, national data indicate that teachers leave because of low salaries, negative school environment and lack of induction and mentoring support.

Approximately 12 percent of teachers (15,000) were eligible to retire last school year (i.e., 55 or older with 20+ years of experience). Even though the total number of teachers is increasing, the proportion eligible to retire is expected to continue growing to about 16 percent (21,300) by 2004.

The teacher ranks are also the primary source for filling principal and other administrator vacancies. About 60 percent of annual administrator attrition is the result of retirement. Last school year, 25 percent of administrators were eligible to retire.

Growing Enrollment. The pressure on teacher and administrator demand will certainly increase with student enrollment projected to grow through 2008. Since 1996, student enrollment has advanced at about 1 percent annually, while the teaching force grew by about 2.4 percent and administrators increased by 2.6 percent. Even at these rates, the workforce is not growing fast enough to meet demand. School district reform efforts, such as class-size reductions, may further exacerbate the problem.

Geographic and Subject-Area Shortages. Even if an abundant supply of teachers were available, some parts of the state and some subject-matter areas would still experience shortages. Wide-ranging disparities in salaries and working conditions among school districts statewide contribute to those regional differences. At the same time, there were not enough special education, mathematics and physical education teachers to fill the need in 2000-2001.

Demographic Imbalances. The scales tip dramatically when the gender and racial distribution of educators is considered. Racial/ethnic minorities are underrepresented among teachers and administrators, while females dominate the teaching ranks and males are primarily administrators. Minority educators comprise just 15 percent of the teaching force (student enrollment is 40 percent minority statewide), 19 percent of principals and just 4 percent of superintendents. There are three female teachers for every male teacher, and 52 percent of principals and 86 percent of superintendents were male.

Bottom Line. The report concludes that

  • Educator supply must exceed demand in order to ensure that adequate quantity and high quality exists within Illinois' teacher and administrator pools.
  • Illinois must aggressively recruit qualified individuals into the teaching profession and retain them by providing induction and mentoring support during their early years, and improving compensation and working conditions, especially in poor urban and hard-to-staff schools.
  • The educator workforce must become more diverse - more minority teachers and administrators, plus more male teachers and female administrators.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777