Wednesday, April 15, 2009

State of the Shortages

A new report by a group of prominent education experts, including government analysts and state and district superintendents, indicates that after the recession ends, there will be a severe shortage of teachers. Reports indicate that many veteran teachers will "probably trench in and hold tight for the next two or three years until things seem to stabilize. The only way we don't see this occurring is if districts make deep and sweeping cuts to pension benefits, pay, and cost of living increases over the retirement life of the taxpayer-subsidized pension. If this happens, expect the mass exodus to occur even sooner." What are they distinctly warning about?

Severe shortages in math, science, world language and some special education teachers. To the tune of 4 retirees for every 1 qualified applicant beginning during the 2012-2013 school year. That means fewer qualified teachers in their assignments, undereducated students, larger class sizes, and more initiatives to try to attract more people to the teaching profession, but only for shortage areas. On the other hand, retirements for: elementary school teachers, health and physical education teachers, guidance counselors, and vice principals (in many states no certification or only additional coursework is required) are expected to be even with the amount of applicants, or, in many states, will actually not be affected as a surplus of candidates will be seen beginning in the 2009-2010 school year and extending onward.

The number of early childhood education teachers is taking a large upswing, which they predict as very beneficial given the new government education legislation and ECE earmarks. It is predicted more teachers will fill out those gaps in the coming three years to nearly break even by the 2012-2013 school year. Other subject areas expected to keep pace despite the upcoming blistering baby boomer retirements: English 6-12, History/Social Studies 6-12, Reading, Principals and Superintendents, and specialty subject teachers, such as Tech Ed. (which will see a huge reduction in districts offering the courses), Family and Consumer Sciences (Home Ec.), and Art (which is seeing a growing number of applicants out in the West and South, while shortages will remain in the Northeast and Midwest).

They expect the average years of service for teachers in a district to drop from 16 in 2007-2008 to 9 in 2012-2013, which, when put in perspective, is a huge impact on students if teachers are not properly trained, intelligent, mentored thoroughly, and given plenty of opportunity for growth, assistance and longevity incentives. Higher salaries and more thorough benefits should be re-instituted after the recession is over, along with more professional development opportunities; mentoring programs and group sessions; and incentives for pursuing higher degrees and coursework, for staying within a district, and for participating in after-school activities such as clubs, sports teams, office hour/help sessions, and curriculum planning and management.

Also, being able to develop creative and specialized new courses that requires teachers to be a bit more esoteric can only be beneficial in the end. If a new History teacher is urged to pursue coursework in Chinese History when pursuing their Master's in History, and after three years, is supported in developing a new course in Chinese History at the school district, interest will swell for the course. In fact, students look forward to taking electives, especially those that will look great on college applications and ones that will perk their interests.

There once existed a time when students were offered a bounty of electives, but not anymore. Since 1999, nearly 60% of elective offerings have been scrapped from schools because of tight budgets, education mandates, and pressure to achieve high scores on standardized tests. The answer? To appease to both sides, expand the knowledge content of standardized tests to require knowledge outside of 'the canon.' More to come...

..of course!

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