Despite the difficult situation for some teachers in the Washington area--specifically the 507 who have been TRIMmed in Prince George's County--national statistics indicate that the supply/demand ratio for teachers appears to be leveling out.
In 1970, the national supply of new teachers exceeded the demand by 76,000, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. In 1980, the surplus was cut by more than half, down to 28,000.
Because fewer students are studying education (the University of Maryland, for example, is graduating about 400 teachers this year, as compared with 1,300 in 1972), some school systems are even beginning to feel a shortage in specific areas.
"The shortage of quality applicants in certain fields is being felt now," says Stephen Rohr, director, department of personnel services, Montgomery County Public Schools.
"We still have surpluses in the traditional areas of elementary education and social studies. Shortages exist in the areas of foreign language (if you can teach more than one language), math, physical sciences, reading, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), industrial arts and certain areas of special education. Another area of increasing demand will be computer literacy."
Says Arlington Schools Superintendent Charles Nunley, "What is needed are teachers of special education, industrial arts, math, science and languages. We are even starting to see shortages of English teachers.
"One reason is that many potential teachers have been discouraged over the past few years by the talk of there being no teaching jobs, and have simply not bothered to apply," says Nunley, who has encouraged reactivation of the high-school-level Future Teachers of America (FTA) clubs in certain areas of the country.
Geographic areas holding the greatest opportunities for teachers are the Southeast and Southwest," says Anna Tackett, associate director, Career Development Center, University of Maryland. "There is also a definite need nationwide for teachers of math, science, industrial education and some areas of special education."
Tackett predicts that the slight increase in the birth rate in the late 1970s may raise the demand for elementary teachers in the mid-1980s.
Both Arlington and Montgomery County Public Schools are making greater use of part-time positions than they have in the past.
"There has been a definite increase in the demand for part-time teachers," says Rohr. "A year ago approximately two-thirds of the teachers hired were full time. Now approximately two-thirds are part time. I expect this to be the trend for a few years."
"Declining enrollment has created a greater need for diversity," says Nunley. "Part-time positions give an employer greater flexibility in filling positions.
"One desirable feature of part-time positions is the enormous pool of talented teachers who want to teach, but not full time. A problem with part time is that in Virginia a teacher has to teach a 30-hour week to be eligible for retirement and other benefits. People in many quarters," he says, "are pushing for a change in this requirement."
Job sharing of teaching positions--mainly at the elementary level--is another way of staffing which has received attention in several counties. Under this system, two teachers, working and planning together, divide one teaching assignment. One may teach mornings, for example, the other afternoons.
Job sharing has its detractors, including some parents who object to the idea of their young children having to deal with more than one teaching personality. Handling benefits for part-time and job-sharing positions has yet to be worked out, but there has been sufficient interest in the concept for the Association of Part Time Professionals to hold a workshop on the subject last month.
"Administrators who have used job sharing say they get more from part timers," claims workshop coordinator Sheila Richardson. "Two heads are better than one. Two people have a wider range of skills than one. And two people have two personalities. One may be more effective working with certain children than the other, and vice versa.
"Not only that, but in areas where job sharing is used extensively, such as in California, administrators have found it to be a financial savings as well."
Meanwhile, what should teachers--current and potential--do?
"Look carefully at the field. Understand the job possibilities. Don't plunge in," stresses Montgomery County's Rohr. "Look at how marketable your skills will be. Consider substitute teaching as an interim step. There is a national need for qualified substitute teachers."