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.