South Carolina Sees Continued Math, Science Teacher Shortage

South Carolina is still unsure about how to solve a shortage of math and science teachers in its public schools, leaving school districts struggling to fill middle and high school vacancies in the key areas of algebra, geometry and calculus — and for employers seeking to fill jobs in math and science related fields in the future.

The percent of total bachelor’s degrees awarded in mathematics and statistics in 2012-13 was 1.1% – 252 degrees out of 23,584, according to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education. Additionally, fewer than 150 concentrated on education with the intention to enter the classroom. Compared to business, management and marketing programs, which award roughly a quarter of bachelor’s degrees each year, the number is miniscule.

A shortage has dogged the state for years according to the S.C. Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement at Winthrop University. Math and science vacancies were surpassed only by vacancies in special education at the elementary level in its 2013 Teacher/Administrator Supply and Demand Survey.

“As long as I have been responsible for this survey, it has been most definitely a problem,” said Jennifer Garrett, the center’s coordinator of research and program development.

Aimed at encouraging high school students to consider the teaching profession, the center oversees the Teacher Cadet and Teacher Fellows programs. However, stigmas still exist, including a sense among young people that teaching is not as valued by society as in years past, Garrett said.

As Carolyn Click of The State reports, on average, 5,200 S.C. public school teachers leave the classroom each year, including nearly 1,200 who retire from the profession. Fewer than 2,200 graduates a year are supplied by South Carolina’s teacher education programs.

The Teach Science and Mathematics campaign to recruit more students to teach in middle and high school will be launched by USC’s College of Education with the backing of Duke. The campaign will utilize social media, videos and other technology to attract math and science majors to the teaching profession through the assistance from USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Columbia advertising and public relations firm Injeanious Media. As part of its campaign to recruit teachers, the university is also working with the Association of Land-Grant Universities.

The push runs in concert with the national “100k in10” effort launched in 2011 and aiming to recruit 100,000 teachers in science, math, technology and engineering by 2021.