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New teacher pipelines narrow as hiring freeze continues

For years, the number of new teachers entering the city’s job market by way of alternative certification programs has been in the thousands. But this year the flood has slowed to a trickle.

When Chancellor Joel Klein announced a teacher hiring freeze last year, organizations that recruit and train new teachers, such as Teach for America and New York City’s Teaching Fellows, began planning to admit fewer teacher-hopefuls. Together, those two programs are planning to take fewer than 700 applicants this year, down from over 2,000 two years ago.

“We anticipate at this point that our needs will be more limited than they have been in past years, except for perhaps this year,” the Department of Education’s Executive Director of Recruitment and Teacher quality, Vicki Bernstein, told me in October. At the time, Bernstein, who oversees recruitment for the Teaching Fellows program, guessed that about 700 fellows would be admitted.

The real number of Teaching Fellows will be closer to 450, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte. In 2009, the Teaching Fellows’ cohort numbered 700, which was already a significant drop from previous years when nearly 2,000 fellows entered the city’s schools annually.

“The silver lining in all of this is that we have the ability to be super selective,” Forte said. “You truly get to pick the best of the best.”

All new Teaching Fellows will teach science or special education, two areas that are exempt from the hiring freeze.

Many prospective Teaching Fellows are still waiting for their decision letters, and some are venting their anxiety on a community blog.

“A few more lucky souls will be accepted between now and Friday, and the remainder will get rejections. Plan B is in full effect as of tomorrow morning,” wrote one anonymous Teaching Fellows applicant.

Teach for America, which admitted 220 corps members for next school year — down from about 430 last year — also focused its recruitment on science and special education. The only corps members who will teach other subjects will be the 100 people working in charter schools, said TFA spokeswoman Eva Boster.

The job shortage in New York City is forcing another teacher training program, Math for America, to look outside of the city for jobs for its 50 fellows. Math for America Vice President Lee Umphrey said the organization is considering allowing fellows to work in public schools in New Haven and Newark next year.

“We’re looking at the transportation grid and where Metro North, the Long Island Rail Road, and PATH trains go,” Umphrey said. “What we want to do is preserve the community of math teachers in this corps.”

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