Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Shortages in the Great Lakes and Plains States

The Norfolk Daily News has noted a significant decline over a period of years in the number of students entering college teacher preparation programs ( Nebraska districts are experiencing shortages. They’re not alone. Many parts of the Midwest are feeling the crunch. The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction stated in 2017 that they and other stakeholders were working on ways to get North Dakotans to choose teaching as a career ( An article in the MinnPost, meanwhile, describes how some Minnesota districts are struggling to fill their positions (

Shortage can refer to a general shortfall of teachers or difficulty filling positions in particular instructional and/ or geographic areas. The following is a look at subject area shortages in the Great Lakes and Plains regions over the past four years.

Teacher Shortage in Minnesota

The statewide Minnesota shortage list, submitted to the federal government, shows some persistent areas of shortage over a period of years. Dance was noted in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, dance and theater arts the following two years; this shortage has continued into 2018-2019. There are some shortages that are very common around the nation, and Minnesota is no exception, noting world language and cultures, English as a second language, mathematics, and multiple special education categories. Minnesota notes specific science disciplines: chemistry and physics.

Minnesota has its own loan repayment program that covers some types of loan that may not be covered under federal programs. The state takes a multi-faceted look at teacher shortage. In addition to a list of teaching fields considered statewide, Minnesota has provided a list of teaching fields by region within the state and a list of teaching fields by region. A region not classified as shortage may still have quite a few shortage areas.

Teacher Shortage in Illinois

What's notable in Illinois is the steep rise in reported shortage areas for 2017-2018. In the preceding years, the list had been quite short and had included well-known shortage areas such as bilingual education.

Also notable is the recurrent inclusion of standard elementary teacher/ instructor on the list. In 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, this shortage had carried a Chicago designation; the following year saw it designated statewide.

2017-2018 saw a wide variety of fields designated as shortage: everything from Pre-K at-risk to social science, English, music, and physical education. The common nationwide shortage areas were represented: foreign language, science, mathematics, ESL, and special education. In a formidable landscape, Illinois employers were looking to place instructors in difficult-to-fill positions, like bilingual special education. The geographic shortage list included Chicago Citywide Resource and areas one through six.

Recent news articles confirm: Illinois is looking at significant teaching shortages. On the other hand, a decline in Illinois K-12 enrollment has been predicted. There will likely be a time in the not too distant future when shortage applies primarily to those instructional areas that are chronically difficult to fill and some areas are seeing more in the way of competition.

Teacher Shortage in Iowa

Iowa data from 2014-2015 through 2017-2018 shows many of the most common nationwide shortage areas, including mathematics, ESL, multiple science disciplines, and multiple special education classifications. Family and consumer science made the list each year, as did agriculture education.

Teacher Shortage in Nebraska

The Nebraska Department of Education maintains summary and comparison reports ( Nebraska reports the following shortage areas each year from 2014-2015 through 2018-2019: language arts, math, and science, world languages, family and consumer science; art is another area of concerning, entering the list in 2015-2016. Science includes the following disciplines: biology, chemistry, earth & space science, and physics. English includes teachers qualified to teach a range of courses, such as secondary English, speech/ theater, and reading and writing.

Nebraska has published a comparison report of teacher vacancies and shortage areas from 2014-2015 through 2017-2018. Teaching areas are ranked by level of shortage. Bucking national trends – or at least appearing to – language arts has appeared quite high on the shortage list, coming in at number 2 out of all unfilled positions, ahead of math and science. It’s important to note that these figures are based on the total number of vacancies; the language arts classification also incorporates reading specialist, a position that requires a high level of training and is difficult to fill for many.

Even when disciplines are declared statewide, they don't occur everywhere equally. Rural areas may be particularly hard hit.

Teacher Shortage in Ohio

Ohio cited shortage in each of the following areas between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018: English/language arts, mathematics, foreign language, science, social studies, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and special education.

Teacher Shortage in North Dakota

North Dakota’s list of shortage areas for the 2015-2015 through 2017-2018 school years includes very common subjects such as art and music, math, science, language arts, social studies, and languages. Additionally, a number of career related fields are noted. Native American languages are among the languages noted.

Here, too, one finds a growing list, with elementary education appearing for the 2017-2018 school year. In a press release, a public information specialist for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction noted that inclusion on the shortage list made a program eligible for programs like loan forgiveness (

Elementary education may not be there in a few years when today's students seek out their first teaching jobs – shortages in some teaching fields cycle on and off while others persist. But there remain options for teachers who go where they’re most needed. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of low-income schools and educational service agencies that qualify a teacher for loan repayment. Students in these schools need teachers who are very well prepared.