There’s a Shortage of Teachers: Here’s How to Solve It
To our readers: Today GoodCall® launches a two-part examination of the ongoing shortage of teachers in the U.S. First, writer Terri Williams examines the causes of the shortage and a potential solution starting at the high school level. Thursday, Terri looks at the other end of the spectrum, even before kindergarten, with a question to education experts: Do preschool teachers need a bachelor’s degree?
It’s quite simple: The U.S. doesn’t have enough teachers for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and the teacher shortage is only going to get worse, according to a report from the Learning Policy Institute. What’s behind the shortage? Student enrollments are climbing rapidly, and teacher attrition is climbing as well.
There are major problems on the horizon, too: The U.S. Department of Labor projects that a reduction in the teacher/pupil ratio will result in an additional 7 percent demand for teachers, and increases in student enrollment will create an additional 6 percent demand. By 2025, the institute projects a gap of 100,000 teachers annually.
What caused this teaching shortage? Is it a solvable issue, and if so, how?
Causes of the shortage of teachers
Anthony Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, tells GoodCall® that the current shortage of teachers is a result of the recession of 2008. “We didn’t hire many teachers in the recession, and now that it’s over, there’s more people looking for teachers than teachers looking for jobs – it’s the same with nurses.”
However, Carnevale says there’s also another change that explains the shortage. “Women have more choices now – they’re not a captive labor force.” Teaching and nursing used to be the only professional avenues for women. Although both career fields are still dominated by women, they now have other options. For example, women now make up half of all law school attendees. And the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business is on track to achieve gender parity in its MBA program by 2020.
Solutions to the shortage of teachers
Educators Rising is starting at the high school level to tackle the teaching shortage. The organization identifies teenagers with an interest in teaching and provides them with the tools to learn more about the profession and gain practical experience. Students as young as 13 can join the organization for free and gain access to online teaching development tools. Students also have the opportunity to apply for scholarships, compete in individual and team contests, and attend the organization’s annual national convention.
The New York State Board of Regents recently make the controversial decision to drop its literacy requirement for teachers, but Brad Weinstein, M.Ed., principal (and former science teacher) at Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis, IN, doesn’t think that’s the answer. “By dropping the teacher literacy test for certification, we are aiming at quantity versus quality of teachers.”
Instead, Weinstein tells GoodCall®, “We need to do more to attract the best and brightest minds out of high school into the teaching profession.” While organizations like Educators Rising are on the right track, Weinstein believes that other areas need to be addressed.
“Teaching is a very stressful job with high accountability and low pay,” he says. “The reward is often intrinsic and people go into the profession because they want to change the world, but many shy away because they will have a mortgage, bills, and children to take care of.”
In fact, Carnevale adds, “Education is the lowest-paid college degree of them all, especially elementary school teachers.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median pay for teachers in 2015 (the latest year available) was as follows:
|High school teachers||$57,200|
|Middle school teachers||$55,860|
|Kindergarten and elementary school teachers||$54,550|
|Special education teachers||$56,800|
Notice that this was the median pay of all teachers, not the starting salaries for new teachers. Also, as a point of comparison, the median annual pay for multimedia artists and animators was $63,970; accountants and auditors earned $67,190; nurses made $67,490; and computer programmers earned $79,530.
If accountants and auditors earn $11,330 more each year than middle school teachers, over the course of 10 years, they will have earned $113,330 more.
Along with an increase in pay, Weinstein recommends improvements in working conditions and more realistic expectations. “In addition to being with students all day, we give teachers many responsibilities outside of the classroom – and working after school and on the weekends burns them out,” he explains. “We need to increase prep time so that teachers actually have time to reflect, think, collaborate, and plan.”
One way or the other, teachers are in a position to influence the next generation of educators. “Teachers should be selling teaching to their kids not only by their words, but by their actions,” Weinstein concludes. “They should strive to be the teacher that makes teaching look fun, rewarding, and show their love for their jobs.”