Maryland will face a severe teacher shortage during the next two years, according to a study by the state Department of Education, prompting concern among some educators that hiring standards may be lowered to fill the vacancies.
The state study projects that the number of openings by 1987 will be nearly three times greater than the number of teachers graduating from Maryland institutions.
The shortage will affect all subject areas except physical education, according to the recently released report, with a total deficit of nearly 6,000 teachers.
A national teacher shortage has been predicted for several years, with researchers projecting a need for a million new teachers by 1990.
While the Washington suburbs did not experience predicted shortages this year, the crunch is being felt in Baltimore, which still has about 100 teaching positions vacant nearly two months after school opened. Those positions are being filled by substitutes.
"We will have to fill vacancies with teachers who do not meet our present standards," said James Dudley, a University of Maryland education professor who has addressed local school boards on the subject. "This can have nothing but a downward effect on quality . . . . I see future problems as exceedingly critical."
Other experts paint a more hopeful picture, proposing scholarships and other incentive programs that could be initiated to attract more students to the teaching profession.
"We look at it as a challenge," said Javier Miyares, a research coordinator at the State Board of Higher Education. "At a time when we know the quality of teacher graduates perhaps has hit an all-time low, we want to increase that supply but at the same time we want to increase quality."
But he cautioned against reviving programs used in Maryland during the teacher shortages in the 1960s, when uncertified teachers were allowed into classrooms with the understanding that they would gain certification.
The issue of standards and shortages has already come up in Baltimore, where a recent review showed that the bulk of newly hired teachers failed a test of writing skills.
Also, Miyares said that Baltimore suffers a "huge hole" in its foreign language teaching ranks because its teachers were hired away by Howard County, where salaries are higher.
Miyares predicts that the poorer districts on the Eastern Shore and in Baltimore will be harder hit by shortages than suburban systems that pay more.
The study on teacher supply and demand, which was conducted jointly with the State Board of Higher Education, projected a demand for 9,024 new teachers between now and 1987.
That compares with a projection of 3,150 new teachers graduating from Maryland colleges and universities, leaving a deficit of 5,874.
Among other cities, Los Angeles is suffering from lack of teachers, and cities such as New York and Houston have shortages in specific areas, such as bilingual education.
The shortage around the country is attributed to low teacher salaries, an increase in enrollment as the children of the postwar baby boom generation enter school and alternative job opportunities for women, who dominate the field.
About 20 percent of the Maryland graduates are expected to leave the state, but that number is offset by teachers imported from other states, according to officials. However, an additional 20 percent of teacher graduates do not go into teaching, a factor that could worsen the shortage.
The situation also could be exacerbated by a proposed requirement that Maryland teachers pass a standardized test to be certified. The state board of education is expected to approve such an exam within a few months.
Herman E. Behling, assistant Maryland superintendent, said the study's findings caught officials by surprise because a survey conducted two years ago pointed to an oversupply of elementary teachers.
"I was astonished at the numbers," said Anne O. Emery, a Baltimore City education official and head of a state task force appointed to study the problem. "I was not astonished at the areas where there was the greatest deficiency."
The most serious shortage, according to the survey, will be in the early grades, with a cumulative deficit of 1,765 by 1987. Special education is second, with a shortage of 1,416 teachers.
Professor Dudley said that the shortage of teachers is not the only factor that will drive down the quality of education, in Maryland and nationally.
Dudley said that crowded classes and increasing numbers of low-income and other traditionally low-achieving youngsters also will have a negative impact.
"There are a number of forces . . . that will begin to force standards down," he said. "I see some real negatives in the picture."