kitchen table math, the sequel: teacher shortage coming right up

Friday, January 25, 2008

teacher shortage coming right up

via eduwonk:

Encouraging more recent college graduates and midcareer professionals to enter a teaching career, without requiring them to take (or commit to taking) years of education school classes, should substantially expand the pool of eligible candidates. Recent experience has shown that there is a reserve army of Americans who are interested in teaching. When the Los Angeles Unified School District needed to triple its hiring of elementary teachers following the state’s class-size reduction initiative in 1997, the district was able to do so without experiencing a reduction in mean teacher effectiveness, even though a disproportionate share of the new recruits were not certified (Kane and Staiger 2005). New York City’s Teaching Fellows program, geared to young and midcareer professionals and still requiring alternative certification, had 16,700 applicants for 1,850 spots. Similarly, Teach for America had 17,000 applicants last year for only 2,000 openings.

Expanding the pool of teacher recruits is especially important now because America’s schools will soon face a growing teacher shortage. The age of primary and secondary school teachers has increased substantially over the last twenty-five years. The median age of a public school teacher (that is, the threshold at which half the teachers are older and half are younger) rose from thirty-three in 1976 to forty-six in 2001 (Snyder, Tan, and Hoffman 2004). There are two underlying reasons for this demographic bubble. First, there was a persistent decline in the proportion of younger women choosing teaching as a career, which occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As career opportunities for women expanded (Blau and Ferber 1992), the proportion of female college freshmen interested in teaching fell precipitously in the early 1970s. Despite a small rebound in interest since that time, the proportion remains below the high levels of the early 1960s (Higher Education Research Institute 2002). Second, elementary and secondary school enrollment started declining in 1970, and districts were hiring fewer teachers (Murnane et. al. 1991). Indeed, the decline in job opportunities in teaching may have accelerated the declining interest of college students in teaching.

Thus, the college freshman of the late sixties were the last cohorts to enter teaching in large numbers. That group is now nearing sixty. Therefore, it is not surprising that 40 percent of public school teachers plan to exit the profession within five years (National Center for Education Information 2005). Similar trends have occurred in other professions traditionally dominated by women, such as nursing (Buerhaus, Staiger, and Auerbach 2000; Staiger, Auerbach, and Buerhaus 2000).

Over the next twenty years, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the school-age population age five through seventeen will grow by 10 percent. To maintain pupilteacher ratios at their current levels, the number of teachers must also grow by 10 percent, from their current level of 3.1 million to 3.4 million. Based on the data in figure 3, we extrapolated the future supply of teachers by aging the current cohorts and assuming that new cohorts will enter teaching at about the same rate as people have for the last two decades. Under this scenario, the supply of teachers will decline over the next decade and then remain at about 3 million through 2025, or nearly half a million teachers below what would be required to maintain current student-teacher ratios.

The bottom line is rather stark: Simply to maintain pupil teacher ratios, we must increase the number of people entering teaching by roughly 35 percent—back to levels not seen since the cohorts that came out of high school in the 1960s. Rather than dig further down in the pool of those willing to consider teacher certification programs or raise class sizes, we need to expand the pool of those eligible to teach. It is time to encourage young people to begin a teaching career without needing to invest in two years of education school first, and to encourage older people to try teaching as a second career.

The Hamilton Project: Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job (pdf file) by Robert Gordon, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger April 2006

Missing Link in the Teacher Quality Debate (discussion)

Spurred by new evidence of the importance of effective teaching to student achievement, education policymakers are seeking out new teacher compensation systems and other ways to ratchet up teacher quality. Nearly two dozen governors have proposed performance-based teacher pay plans this year, and teacher compensation reform has already surfaced in the 2008 presidential campaign.

But today's teacher quality debate has neglected a key barrier to teacher and school reform: the troubled state of teacher evaluation in much of public education. Education Sector Co-director Thomas Toch and Robert Rothman of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform address in a forthcoming Education Sector report the causes, consequences, and solutions to public education's failure to measure teacher performance.

Join Education Sector for a preview of the report's findings and an engaging discussion of this important piece of the teacher quality puzzle.

The event features:
Chris Cerf, Deputy Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
Kai Ivory, Teacher, DC Preparatory Academy
Ray Pecheone, Co-executive Director, School Redesign Network, Stanford University
Marcia Reback, Vice President, American Federation of Teachers, President, Rhode Island Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals
Thomas Toch, Co-director, Education Sector, and;
Elena Silva, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Sector (as moderator)

Haven't listened yet, but I intend to.


Anonymous said...

There will be no teacher shortage--they'll figure out a way to lower the standards of who can become a teacher.

Instructivist said...

I don't know where this talk about teacher shortages is coming from. At least here in Chicago I estimate that 200 unemployed teachers are chasing one job opening. If you go to a job fair you'll find thousands of teachers chasing a handful of jobs.

Catherine Johnson said...


I wonder, too.

Of course, this is all based in projections that could be correct. We're experiencing a mass exodus of retirement-age teachers around here.

palisadesk said...

Generally speaking, where the salaries are high, there are plenty of applicants for available positions. Districts are happy about the retirement numbers, because that means replacing people at the top of the salary scale with newcomers at the bottom. Teacher skills or quality are not major concerns.

Brett said...

Historically, Ms Hockmeier has been correct: whenever there's a teacher shortage, states have just lowered the standards for the job and the shortage disappears.

But what's missing here is a discussion of which teachers are in shortage. There's actually a surplus of teachers in elementary education, social studies, and several other areas - the shortage comes in positions with greater knowledge/certification requirements, like special education and physics.

But of course, it's much better to drop them all into a big pot so you can argue for across-the-board pay raises, rather than raise the ugly issue of paying some more than others.

SteveH said...

There is no shortage in our area. It's a very desirable job. Opening up the pool of applicants should improve the quality of teaching, but I suspect it would have little effect due to seniority and union rules. Besides, I can't imagine that our school would select someone from outside of the "club", especially if they advocate an emphasis on content and skills. It's not just a quality issue, but one of pedagogy.

Catherine Johnson said...

There's actually a surplus of teachers in elementary education, social studies, and several other areas - the shortage comes in positions with greater knowledge/certification requirements, like special education and physics.

When I looked at the stats on future graduates compared to future job openings for NY I didn't even find a big gap between future math ed grads & future math jobs!

Of course, this is the immediate future I'm talking about.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm sure Steve's right that districts won't hire outside the club.

Anonymous said...

Avoiding teacher training programs just *might* get you more [good] teachers... I started college with lots of [capable, intelligent] people who thought we wanted to teach until we sat through education classes.

[At least in part. Personally, I also discovered that my subject areas got *much* cooler once you got beyond the high school level. And while I *love* to teach, you couldn't pay me enough to deal with the crap teachers deal with in public schools. But if it hadn't required an education degree, they might have gotten a couple of years out of me before I worked that out.]

Catherine Johnson said...

My brother in law started out as an ed major at the University of Virginia but changed majors because, he said, he couldn't learn anything as an ed major.

Catherine Johnson said...

The other probably deeply wrong concept in all these policy-wonk discussions is the idea that we should begin paying "good teachers" bonuses to work in low-performing schools.

Given what palisadesk has to say, I suspect the good teachers are already there.

Given the instructional practices I've seen around here, I'd say we have few teachers who would be able to teach in a low performing school.

In this district, teachers tell parents that their teaching goal is to have students "take ownership of their learning."

That's not going to get you far in a school filled with parents who can't reteach math at home.

le radical galoisien said...

Current "teacher-making" colleges seem to attract the lower end of the student pool rather than the higher end (which seems an ironic thing, given that they teach the next generation...)

For one such prominent institution in my state, the SAT score of the 75th percentile only corresponded to the 65th percentile of test-takers. [Not that this a rigourous judgment, but it's a quick benchmark.]

Can you really say standards have "dropped" though? What it seems is that society's expectations have risen, but performance has not.
It's a bit like like how you have people who watch news on TV then deplore the state of the world, even though the world has roughly always been that way -- just that public awareness has risen.

(Although from a quick glance Google Scholar, most of the interesting pedagogical research always seemed to have been published in the 1960s/1970s.)

Catherine Johnson said...

lrg - Not sure whether you're referring to student or teacher performance. Student performance has dropped very significantly & Hoxby's research shows that teacher quality as indicated by SAT scores has dropped as well.

I'll get those links.

What you need to know about the SATs is that SAT-V dropped so far that in 1995 the College Board recentered the scores. To equate a current SAT-V score to pre-1995 scores you have to subtract approximately 70 points.

SAT-M scores are roughly the same - which, ironically, probably indicates that math performance has actually gone up!

At least, that's the way I read the situation. Today's SAT-M test includes some material from algebra 2; it didn't when I took it. And yet scores have remained roughly the same.

When I took the SAT in my rural school I got a 620-M.

When I re-took a sample SAT after finishing Saxon Algebra 1, I still got a 620-M. I got every single algebra 1 & geometry question correct; couldn't even begin to do the algebra 2 questions.

I couldn't have gotten every algebra 1 & geometry question correct back in the day; if I had my score would have been 800.

The contemporary SAT-M test I took was significantly more difficult than the one I took when I was a kid, and to earn the same score I had to know far more material than I did then.