Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Shortages in the Far West

An NBC News article details just how far some western states need to look to fill their hardest to fill teaching positions ( Nevada's Clark County schools recently invited more than 80 professionals from the Philippines to join their team. The goal: to alleviate their special education teacher shortage. As Nevada's largest population center, Clark County is charged with educating a large portion of the state's school children, not an easy task when teachers are in short supply. Nevada's proportion of uncertified teachers was recently reported at 6.7%: far above the national average.

How is California faring? Washington? They're facing some serious struggles, too. In 2016, 23% of Washington districts reported they were in crisis mode (with most of the rest reporting they were struggling but getting by). Even Hawaii is feeling the heat.

Teacher shortages occur in some instructional areas more than others. While there are some national trends, there is also a lot of state to state variation. The following is a look at teacher shortages in the Far West.

California Teacher Shortage

In California, the following subjects were on the shortage list provided to the U.S. Department of Education during each reporting period between 2013-2014 and 2017-2018: English/drama/humanities, history/social Science, mathematics, computer education, science, and special education.

2.1% of California's teachers were uncertified, according to the most recent data available to the Learning Policy Institute in 2018.

In 2017, the Learning Policy Institute took an in-depth look at California districts and the shortages they were facing ( Among the conclusions: Hiring was a challenge, but all districts were not equally impacted. California had taken steps to alleviate the problem, but it would likely take several years for current efforts to reach fruition.

Hawaii Teacher Shortage

Hawaii reported the following disciplines as shortage areas during every cycle from 2013-2014 to 2017-2018: English/reading, science, special education, and technical/ vocational education. The list grew a little across the years; Hawaiian and Hawaiian Immersion entered the list in 2015-2016.

Hawaii’s use of uncertified teachers is also above the national average (

Hawaii is an ‘import state’ with regard to educators, and remoteness/ isolation have frequently played a role in teacher retention.

Nevada Teacher Shortage

Nevada, as one might expect, has reported a lengthy list of shortage areas each year in the recent past. The following appeared each year between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018: art, music, elementary education, preschool (or pre-kindergarten), English (or language arts). This is in addition to mathematics, English as a Second language, and various science disciplines, foreign languages, and special education classifications. Grade levels cited vary some from year to year. Some years both elementary and secondary art are noted as shortage areas; other years, only secondary art.

Nevada is quite specific about what its schools are struggling to find. Annual shortage lists tend to include some career-related fields and some uncommon teaching fields – e.g. ornamental horticulture, ethnic dance – but it changes from year to year which ones make the cut!

Oregon Teacher Shortage

Oregon’s official list of shortage teaching fields for 2013-2014 through 2017-2018 largely mirrors that of nationally recognized shortage areas. Instructional areas include bilingual/English language learner, mathematics, science, Spanish, and special education. Also designated were four counties: Gilliam County, Grant County, Lake County, and Sherman County.

Washington State Teacher Shortage

The following teaching areas have appeared on the list generated for the federal government each year from 2014-2015 through 2017-2018: special education, early childhood special education, English Language Learner, middle level math, science, and specific science disciplines, including Earth and space science. Bilingual education was added for 2015-2016. Perhaps a bigger surprise: elementary education appeared on the list in 2017-2018.

Washington has an Educator Retooling Conditional Scholarship Program to help certified teachers earn additional credentials in shortage areas; elementary education is among the fields noted ( Early childhood education and environmental sustainability education are also on this list.

Special circumstances have contributed to elementary education becoming one of the areas of concern. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released shortage-related data for a period of several years, culminating with the 2015-2016 year. OSPI noted a general teaching shortage. They attributed the teacher shortage to a number of factors including declining enrollment in education programs but also to the implementation of full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction at the K-3 level. There were a number of teachers teaching out of area in this field (although not as many as in math or science). At that time, just 25% of respondents reported having implemented their K-3 class size reductions.

The Learning Policy Institute has noted Washington’s multi-faceted strategy for approaching its teaching shortage.

In 2016, Yakima and Wenatchee were most challenged with regard to having to hire unqualified teachers.

Notably, 2.7% of human resource directors statewide responded that they were doing just fine – not experience hiring-related struggles.

Alaska Teacher Shortage

Alaska reported shortages by school district in 2017-2018. In a land as remote and chilly, it’s no surprise that location plays a big role.

Between 2013-2014 and 2016-2017, mathematics, social studies, science, and special education made the teaching area shortage list.

A majority of Alaska teachers are educated in the lower 48. They’re feeling the effects of nationwide shortage.