Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Shortages in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Region

The Learning Policy Institute recently reported Arizona's proportion of uncertified teachers at a staggering 11.7%. There are teacher shortages throughout the west but some are broader and deeper than others.

Shortages don’t affect all parts of a state equally. Nationwide, rurality is among the factors, and the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Regions have plenty of relatively isolated communities.

Subject matter is another dimension of shortage. Patterns of shortage are reflected in data submitted to the federal government and displayed on state websites. As the U.S. Department notes, the shortage list is not to be construed as a hiring list. But between the more anecdotal local news, a picture of need emergences.

Teacher Shortage in Arizona

Arizona has a number of areas that show up on the shortage list each year between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018. Included are several secondary social studies and science disciplines; history and economics were the social studies disciplines that appeared each year. Math, science, visual arts, and foreign language were persistent shortage areas at the middle level, as was special education and ESL/ bilingual education. Notably, the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 lists are much longer than the ones from the preceding years. In 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, just one elementary area was identified (either special education or ESL/ bilingual education) in the latter two years, there were a number.

The list of counties noted as having teacher shortages also increased during this time period. Maricopa County, which includes four of Arizona's five most populous cities, made the list in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

Teacher Shortage in Colorado

Colorado Succeeds, a nonprofit organization working on improving education in Colorado schools, has provided a fact sheet about Colorado teaching shortages ( The organization notes that enrollment in teacher preparation programs is declining – though slightly less in Colorado than in the nation as a whole. Colorado is an ‘import’ state with regard to teachers. Colorado as a whole has a severe teacher shortage, but this doesn’t mean all areas of the state are facing shortage. 77% of the state’s districts are classified as rural, and these typically have a harder time attracting teachers. (New young teaching graduates tend to gravitate toward urban areas.)

Colorado, like other states, has submitted information about shortage teaching fields to the U.S. Department of Education. The following have appeared on the list each year between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018: art/music/drama, special education, foreign languages, mathematics, and science (or natural sciences). Science and mathematics are designated as shortage areas at the secondary level (grade 7 and above).Foreign language and arts disciplines cover grades K-12. Special education covers all traditional school grades and until such time as students with disabilities “age out”. Some years early childhood special education is noted; this classification includes preschoolers and even infants.

The Colorado Independent notes that wearing a tag that says ‘high school science’ can translate into having a good day at a job fair ( Among the perks one potential science hire was recently offered by a very rural district: a place to board her horse.

The Colorado Education Association is among the many stakeholders working to convince people to choose teaching as a career (

Teacher Shortage in Idaho

The Idaho designated shortage lists covering 2014-2015 through 2017-2018 are extensive. Included are mathematics, bilingual education, and a number of social studies and science disciplines (e.g. psychology, economic, history, geography, earth science, biological science, and physical science). Art and music appeared each time; drama, intermittently. A number of career-related fields were represented. Elementary education appeared on the list in 2015-2016 and continued through 2017-2018.

The rural/ urban divide is seen here, too. Idaho’s rural areas have been especially hard hit.

Teacher Shortage in New Mexico

Bilingual education, science, and mathematics appeared on the New Mexico designated shortage list during each reporting period between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018. Kindergarten entered the list for 2015-2016; preschool and kindergarten both appeared on the 2016-2017/ 2017-2018 list.

The Legislative Education Study Committee reported in 2016 that use of long-term substitutes and individuals with alternative credentials was widespread as were vacancies – signs pointing to shortage.

Teacher Shortage in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is also struggling to fill teaching positions. Oklahoma’s list of shortage areas has been growing in the years since 2011-2012. The following subjects have appeared each reporting cycle since 2013-2014: early childhood education, elementary education, English, foreign languages, mathematics, science, social studies, and special education. After spending a couple of years off the official shortage list, music found its way back on for the 2015-2016 school year. The combined 2017-2018/ 2018-2019 list includes career and technology education, computer science, business, and humanities.

Oklahoma issues emergency certification in two instances: when it’s necessary to fill positions with teachers who do not qualify for regular credentials in the particular teaching area sought – and when it’s necessary to fill positions with people who don’t qualify for standard teacher certification at all. The Learning Policy Institute reported that Oklahoma issued 1,160 emergency credentials in 2016-2017 ( A recent news article suggests the number is going up not down (

Teacher Shortage in Texas

The Texas shortage list from recent years has included the most commonly reported subjects nationwide. The list from 2014-2015 through 2017-2018 includes the following: bilingual/ESL, career and technical education, computer science, mathematics, science, and elementary and secondary special education.

Teacher Shortage in Utah

Shortage areas officially designated in Utah also reflect common nationwide trends, but with a local twist. Foreign language and bilingual are common shortage areas; Utah noted dual language immersion and Chinese. Utah’s dual language program has gained some acclaim.

For several years, the state has struggled to find teachers qualified to teach higher mathematics courses. Chemistry and physics were noted some years. Special education is a perennial area of need but specific categories have varied.