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N.D. teacher shortage spreads statewide

BISMARCK -- The North Dakota teacher licensing board learned Thursday that the shortage of teachers in North Dakota extends well beyond the Oil Patch.

BISMARCK -- The North Dakota teacher licensing board learned Thursday that the shortage of teachers in North Dakota extends well beyond the Oil Patch.

And while rural school districts have plenty of vacancies, urban ones also had unfilled positions when the school year started, according to data presented at the Education Standards and Practices Board meeting Thursday at the state Capitol in Bismarck.

"We think everyone wants to go to Fargo," said Lou Aronson, teacher shortage researcher for the board, echoing a concern expressed by some rural school administrators. "There's openings in Fargo also."

Cass County, according to her data, had two openings at the start of the school year. Statewide, school districts reported 89 unfilled teaching positions.

Vacancies existed at schools in the Bakken and elsewhere, particularly in south-central North Dakota and in the northeastern part of the state. Aronson said there are a high number of openings on Indian reservations.

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"I don't think that this is impossible to fill because we have teacher ed programs in these areas," she said.

Board member Karen Christensen said she has heard educators say they are willing to work as substitute teachers in small towns but not full-time employees because they prefer to live in bigger cities.

Aronson said in Bismarck-Mandan, she knows graduates of schools in one city that refuse to apply for a job in the other.

"I have never seen young adults so loyal to their communities," she said.

Aronson said she is interviewing school administrators about what they have done to fill positions and to find out their most critical needs.

Some newer administrators are unaware of alternatives to the traditional education needed to seek a teacher's license, according to Aronson, who pointed to the program, Transition to Teaching, which provides training to aspiring teachers who have non-teaching baccalaureate degrees or military or industry expertise in areas where there is a teacher shortage.

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