Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Shortages in the Southeast

The Arkansas House of Representatives published a newsletter in the summer of 2018 titled “Arkansas Needs Teachers”. The House noted a decline in enrollment in educator preparation programs as well as a list, released by the Department of Education, that had included 15 areas of critical shortage (

Virginia’s governor signed a directive in December of 2018, changing some education preparation requirements, and noting that unfilled positions had risen by 40% in the prior decade. Virginia and Arkansas are not alone. In 2018, the local news is replete with articles about shortages in Mississippi and other southern states.

Teacher shortages are rampant, but they don’t affect all students equally. Virginia’s Executive Directive 14 stated that in high poverty educational districts, the situation was nearing crisis proportions. It’s not just about what state one is in but what part of the state. The US Department of Education maintains an up-to-date directory of educational entities that qualify a teacher for loan repayment based on economic status of those served.

Teacher shortages also occur disproportionately in particular instructional areas. Some are recognized at the national level, some at the state level. Math, science, and special education have been on the radar a long time while elementary education positions are considered relatively easy to fill. In some states, though, this has not been the case. The following is a look at Southern states and their designated shortage areas.

Teacher Shortage in Alabama

The following have shown up on the Alabama shortage list at least four times in the recent past (2013-2014, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, 2017-2018): English, math, science, foreign language, and arts. (Arts shortages include art, music, and band). Each of these instructional areas has reported shortages at the middle school/secondary school level (grades 6-12). Special education has experienced shortages at the K-12 level; multiple classifications are noted.

Teacher Shortage in Arkansas

Mathematics and special education are long-time Arkansas shortage areas, having appeared on the list given to the federal government for almost too many years to count. Art and family and consumer sciences have been designated as shortage areas now for four years (2015-2016 through 2018-2019).

There has been a slight rise in the number of shortage areas in recent years. Computer science has been on the list now for a few years, music for a couple years. The 2018-2019 list includes social studies. The natural science disciplines that have been most frequently noted in recent years are physics and chemistry.

According to the Office for Education Policy (OEP) blog, recruitment challenges vary a good deal by district ( Across the board, Arkansas teacher vacancies are drawing an average of about six applicants. Large districts fare better. Urban and suburban districts tend to have more applicants than rural ones. Districts in the Northwest do relatively well attracting applicants; those in the Southwest, Southeast, and Central parts of the state are challenged.

Like many states, Arkansas offers its own set of incentives.

Teacher Shortage in Louisiana

Louisiana has the same list for the 2008–2009 through 2017–2018 school years. It's a lengthy one, including early childhood education (PreK-K), elementary education, special education, and the arts, as well as five secondary and middle level subjects (mathematics, science, social studies, English, and foreign language).

Teacher Shortage in South Carolina

South Carolina's list of shortage areas included four core middle school subjects (language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies) during each year from 2014-2015 to 2017-2018. Secondary mathematics, science, and English (or language arts) were also cited each time. Family and consumer science, theater, and business education were among the special subjects that were persistently difficult to fill. Art, music, and dance each made the shortage list most of these years; they were included on both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 list.

Teacher Shortage in Tennessee

Tennessee has designated the same subjects for each school year from 2014-2015 through 2017-2018. The list includes four very fundamental and universal grade 7-12 subjects (English, mathematics, social studies, and science), plus PreK-12 ESL, K-12 special education, and 7-12 foreign language.

Teacher Shortage in Virginia

The Virginia Loan Scholarship Program isdesigned to facilitate college teaching preparation in the state’s five top critical shortage areas. The top ten critical shortage areas have in recent years been determined by an annual survey of teaching divisions. They are then ranked according to the number of unfilled positions and the positions that are filled by a provisionally licensed teacher or a teacher who is teaching a subject area that does not match his or her preparation The top five critical shortage areas for 2018-2019 (and also for 2017-2018, 2016-2017, 2015-2016, and 2014-2015) were special education, elementary education (preK-6), middle education (grades 6-8), career and technical education, and mathematics (grades 6-12). In short, the data points to the conclusion Virginia needs professionals to teach not just its technical subjects but its kids!

Health and physical education, foreign language, and English have also appeared on the lists Virginia has designated for the federal government.

Notably, Virginia made changes very recently so that prospective teachers could complete their academic degrees and teacher preparation in four years (as opposed to five). There are state-level financial incentives to enter the field and go where one’s needed most. The Virginia Loan Scholarship Program helps teachers train for careers in critical shortage areas (

Teacher Shortage in West Virginia

West Virginia has widespread shortages. Elementary education appeared on the list each year between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018. So did a wide array of secondary subjects, including language arts, social studies, family consumer science, and arts. General science made the list as did specific science subjects. Middle school mathematics was listed as shortage each time; other middle school subjects appeared some years, but not all.