Teacher recruitment remains daunting task

Despite the long summer vacation, recruiting teachers continues to be a Sisyphean task (“Most College Students Interested in Teaching Never Make It to the Classroom,” Education Week, Jul. 10).  A new study entitled “Baccalaureate and Beyond” of about 29,000 students who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2015-16 found that of the 41 percent who had considered teaching as a career, only 17 percent actually ended up in the classroom a year later.

That’s not at all surprising.  The truth is that despite what critics say about teachers having a plum job, few college graduates choose teaching as a career.  The more they learn about the reality of the profession, the less likely they are to go on to earn a credential.  I don’t blame them at all.  Teaching today bears little resemblance to teaching in the past.  The incessant pressure to boost standardized test scores has effectively stripped teachers of the freedom to devise lessons that they alone believe meet the needs and interests of their students.

Moreover, teachers no longer possess the authority they once had when they were allowed to act in loco parentis.  The U.S. Supreme Court held in Goss v. Lopez that students have the right of due process for even the most routine disciplinary decisions.  As a result, teachers find themselves having to walk on eggs, lest they be sued.  That’s especially the case when discipline involves students of color.  It’s little wonder that chaos exists in so many classrooms.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Teacher recruitment remains daunting task”

  1. Agree with your points, but there are other major factors contributing to the teacher shortage.

    Perhaps the most important factor is the dramatically increased opportunities for women to enter the traditionally male professions — law, medicine, architecture, accounting, even engineering. Fifty years ago, a college-graduate woman’s professional options were nursing or teaching. Now, she can choose the higher-paying more prestigious professions. So, right there, the number of potential new teachers — particularly very sharp new teachers — is reduced substantially.

    A second factor is the way teacher pay scales are structured. It’s true that teacher salaries have increased dramatically relative to what they were in the 1960s. But, my sense is that a disproportionate amount of the increase has been in the middle and higher steps. Entry level teacher salaries have certainly increased over the years, but the bulk of the increased spending for teacher salaries has gone to the more experienced teachers. Likewise, the generally above-average benefits (health insurance, pension) that teachers receive is heavily back-loaded. Teachers who teach 20+ years receive much more in average per-year benefits than teachers who teach less than 5 years. So — if a recent college grad is considering teaching and knows he/she will teach for 30+ years, the career total salary + benefits are relatively attractive. But, the years 1 – 5 total salary + benefits are much less attractive. Human nature strongly dictates that decision-making is governed by what is likely to happen in the short term, not the long term. And, of course, that recent college grad must discount the value of the long-term teacher salaries/benefits by the strong possibility that he/she will leave teaching short of 20 years.

    A third factor is the increases in the amount of student loan debt that recent college grads are carrying. For a recent college grad weighing his/her choice between teaching and a slightly higher-paying/slightly less attractive alternate career, that additional student loan debt load strongly tilts the choice towards the alternate career.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: All of these factors help explain the reasons why recruiting teachers is so hard. I submit, however, that retaining them is even harder., Whatever idealism college grads possess is soon tested by the realities of the classroom today. The No. 1 factor is the loss of authority. Goss v. Lopez, in particular, meant that students can contest any disciplinary decision made by teachers. As a result, classrooms have become chaotic. I see little hope that thing will change.

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