What are the Causes of the Teacher Shortage?

As we’ve been discussing, teachers are in short supply.  Why is this happening? This post will endeavor to enumerate the causes for the teacher shortage.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 11.50.39 AM.pngA major contributing factor to the teacher shortage is the fact that those entering the teaching profession don’t get paid as well as other graduates out of college.  According to the National Education Association, starting salary for a teacher in California is $41,131, and this amount is in the top ten nationwide.  The National Association of Colleges and Employers, a group that tracks employment trends of college graduates, says that starting salaries  for the Class of 2014 were at $48,707.  Potential teachers pay attention to what kind of salaries they’ll be getting, and these low numbers deter them from entering teaching programs.Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 11.53.46 AM.png

In the United States, teachers don’t get enough respect.  According to a 2013 Varkey Foundation survey, which asks citizens of a country to rank teachers against other professions and then normalizes the data on an interval level from 1-100 (think of this as a likability scale), the United States gives its teachers a 38.4.  In the same report, a plurality of respondents in the United States said they thought of teachers as being closest to librarians (as opposed to doctors, nurses, social workers, or politicians).  When educators are compared to a profession that has been more or less obsolete for the past twenty years, I think this is indicative of the lack of respect that they feel.  When people consider a career, they may remember the old adage, “those that can’t do, teach,” and so those that want to be thought of as successes attempt to go into a different profession.  This phrase not only underscores the lack of respect felt by teachers, but also creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where the profession is populated by those who couldn’t do anything else.

Teaching is becoming an increasingly stressful profession full of uncertainty.  After the 2008 economic recession, teachers were getting pink slips every year, meaning that they didn’t know if they’d be hired back on to work the following year.  According to the New York Times, “educators say that during the recession and its aftermath prospective teachers became wary of accumulating debt or training for jobs that might not exist.”  This uncertainty lead to teachers leaving the profession, and potential teachers going elsewhere for employment.

Teachers don’t feel like they’re given the time to teach.  Standardized testing has become the focus of education, because evaluations determine the quality of education that children are receiving.  This is causing a backlash that the National education Association says is causing teachers to leave the profession.  The article says that “Fifty-two percent of teachers surveyed said they spend too much time on testing and test prep. The average teacher now reports spending about 30 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks” and “According to the NEA survey, a majority of teachers reported feeling considerable pressure to improve test scores. 72 percent replied that they felt “moderate” or “extreme” pressure from both school and district administrators.”

How can these problems be addressed?  What are the solutions?


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