New Jersey schools have been recognized as among the best in the nation, but some districts continue to have a problem attracting enough qualified teachers.

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“U.S. Department of Education statistics indicate New Jersey still has a teacher shortage. In addition to mathematics and science, particularly at the secondary school level, we are seeing some difficulty in recruiting special education teachers,” said Frank Belluscio, the deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

He said there is also a shortage of world language teachers as well as bilingual teachers.

Belluscio said while some suburban districts struggle to find enough math and science teachers “there tends to be more difficulty in recruiting in the inner city school districts as well as some of the poorer rural areas, especially in South Jersey.”

So, what’s driving these shortages?

Belluscio said particularly in math and science “you do have a great deal of competition for people with those backgrounds from private industry, from research firms and so forth.”

Belluscio said some districts are also struggling to hire enough special education teachers because “the classification rates of students has increased so there is more of a demand in that area , also that is a very specialized educational area.”

Schools are doing a number of things to compensate.

“For instance when you’re talking about advanced placement classes,  school districts do join forces and provide classes via internet connections as well as other types of shared learning experiences,” he said.

Another strategy involves financial compensation.

When trying to find in-demand teachers, districts can negotiate certain options such as initial placement on the salary guide, where the Superintendent does have the ability to recommend that a teacher be place on a higher level,” said Belluscio. “And there’s also the concept of signing bonuses for teachers who would be in a difficult to recruit area.”

He stressed the teacher shortage we’re experiencing now is consistent with what we’ve seen in the past but it’s very important to keep one thing in mind.

“New Jersey does not have an overall teacher shortage similar to what we saw in some of the western states, particularly during the high growth years,” he said. ‘The magnitude of the problem doesn’t compare to what some other states have faced in recent years.”