Credit: Photo by Katerina Holmes:

Unless state lawmakers act soon to improve New Jersey’s teacher pipeline, there will not be enough qualified candidates to replace teachers leaving the profession, according to a new report by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP).

“New Jersey’s teacher shortage is a threat to public education and deserves an urgent, all-hands-on-deck response from state lawmakers,” said Mark Weber, Ph.D., report author and Special Analyst for Education Policy at NJPP. “Students no longer see the teaching profession as a career to aspire to, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise given the onerous certification requirements, stagnant pay, and declining value of pensions and health benefits.”

The report, New Jersey’s Teacher Pipeline: The Decline in Teacher Candidates Continues, finds that the number of students completing teacher preparation programs is sharply declining and that New Jersey colleges produce fewer teachers than the rest of the nation.

The 2017-18 school year was the first time in two decades when the number of new teacher candidates was below 3,000 in New Jersey, the report finds. During that school year, the state only had 2,209 teacher candidates, down from 6,712 in the 2011-12 school year.

The report notes that the decline in teacher candidates cannot be explained by a change in the total number of New Jersey college students. In the 2011-12 school year, nearly 5 people completed teacher preparation for every 1,000 New Jersey college students. In the 2018-19 school year, that number has fallen to barely 2, according to the report.

Comparing New Jersey’s teacher pipeline to the rest of the U.S., the report finds that New Jersey’s colleges and universities produce far fewer teachers. Across the country, nearly 9 people complete teacher preparation for every 1,000 students — more than four times the rate in New Jersey.

Making matters worse, the number of New Jersey college students graduating with a teaching degree hit an all-time low in 2020 at 3,511. This is nearly 35 percent lower than the state’s 5,328 teaching degree graduates in 2011. While not all teacher training programs lead to college degrees that prepare students for a career in teaching, this is still an important measure of teacher recruitment.

To address the teacher shortage, getting more qualified candidates to enter and remain in the teaching profession must be the primary goal. The report recommends lawmakers bolster the state’s teacher pipeline by: increasing teacher compensation to attract the best candidates, shoring up the public pension fund and stop degrading health benefits, streamlining the teacher certification process by removing the EdTPA program, and recruiting more teacher candidates of color.

“To attract the best and brightest teachers for our students, we’re going to need good policies that make teaching an attractive profession,” said Mark Weber.

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