TV special investigates

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“False Alarm,” an investigative look at the country’s widely touted teacher shortage, will be broadcast on Sunday, September 12 at 1 pm on WTTW-TV, Channel 11. Focusing on schools in Georgia, Texas and California, documentary film-maker John Merrow suggests that the shortage may be less a “problem of recruitment than retention.”

He looks at “administrative malpractice;” for example, assigning a physical education teacher to a math class. He also examines “administrative incompetence.” In Oakland, Cal., for instance, school officials claimed they couldn’t find qualified teachers to cover all their math and science classes. However, Merrow profiles two teachers who tried to apply for jobs in Oakland but couldn’t get interviews.

“One qualified science teacher finally gave up and took a job elsewhere,” Merrow reports. “Six months after the start of the school year, Oakland contacted her to see if she might be interested in a job teaching bilingual education!”

“False Alarm” also cites teacher preparation as “a weak link”—most programs are long on lectures and short on hands-on help.