Teachers face a range of challenges, but hiring more won’t solve them

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The most recent efforts to tackle the teacher shortage do not address the real problems

States have recently focused their efforts on reducing the nation’s teacher shortage by promoting strategies that “remove or ease barriers to entry” to quickly attract new people into the teaching profession.

California, for example, allows teacher candidates to skip the basic skills and subject tests if they have taken approved college courses. New Mexico is replacing subject-based skills tests with a portfolio to demonstrate teaching skills.


Similarly, Oklahoma eliminated the Oklahoma General Education Test as a certification requirement. Missouri no longer looks at a prospective teacher’s overall grades—only those earned in certain courses required to become a teacher. Alabama has moved to allow those who score below the cutoff marks on teacher certification exams to obtain a teacher’s license, and Arizona’s education requirements for teachers now allow those without a degree university to start teaching – as long as they are currently enrolled in university.

All of these efforts focus on recruiting new teachers, primarily by lowering requirements to make it easier to get certified to teach in public schools.

But these approaches do not address the real causes of the national teacher shortage. As we discovered while researching our book “How Did We Get Here?” for teachers and their profession, resulting in decades of low pay, high polling and poor working conditions.

Lack of professional respect drives teachers away

Even before COVID-19 hit, teachers were leaving the profession at an increasing rate. In the late 1980s, annual teacher turnover was 5.6%, but has increased to about 8% over the past decade.

It was speculated that the stress of teaching during a pandemic would scare away even more teachers. About 1 in 6 teachers said they were likely to quit their job before the pandemic, but that figure rose to 1 in 4 by the 2020-21 school year. As teachers continue to leave classrooms, fewer people are signing up to replace them.

In fact, the number of incoming teachers has fallen from 275,000 in 2010 to less than 200,000 in 2020 and is expected to be below 120,000 by 2025. And even those who stay on the job are so unhappy that many have made the strike.

We have found that the reasons teachers leave revolve mainly around the lack of respect they and the profession constantly face. For example, teachers earn about 20% less than professionals with similar training.

They also had to cope with an increasing workload, even before the pandemic placed additional demands on time, energy and mental health.

In addition, teachers saw a decrease in control over what they teach and how they teach it. They are also routinely exposed to a continuing wave of disrespectful student behavior and parental hostility, as highlighted in a survey of 15,000 educators that found an increasing tendency for students to verbally and physically harass teachers, as well as parents engaging in harassing behavior online and retaliating for teachers simply doing their job.

This general lack of respect leads to turnover of existing teachers and discourages potential teachers from considering the profession.

One college student told us, “I viewed teaching as a career quite strongly…and every person I spoke to, whether it was an elementary school teacher or a college professor, said the same thing – that it was a lot of work, it was an unstable work environment, and the pay was very low for the amount of work you put in. Unsurprisingly, she chose another career path.

Students line up for the doors to open at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Orlando, Florida on the first day of classes in Orange County for the 2022-23 school year. Orange County Public Schools is still looking to hire about 100 new teachers to fill vacancies in the district.

(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

The wrong solutions to the problem

A growing number of states have eliminated or proposed to eliminate core competencies and subject matter exam requirements for teacher certification. These prerequisites have long served as quality checks for future teachers. If they do not guarantee effective teaching, they constitute a minimum qualification threshold.

We believe that efforts to relax the requirements for new teachers will bring more disrespect to the profession. The story also suggests that they will make schools that primarily serve students of color have even fewer certified and experienced teachers than they already have.

But more directly, these efforts to boost teacher recruitment do not address the reasons teachers leave the profession in the first place, which drive 90% of the demand for new teachers.

Lowering standards to allow more people to enter the teaching profession can, for a short time, increase the number of people available to stand in front of classrooms. But this approach does not make teaching an attractive profession to consider, nor one worthwhile for someone to stay and thrive. Solving the problem of teacher shortages requires solutions that reduce the number of teachers leaving the field and specifically address the lack of respect, low pay, hypersurveillance and poor working conditions they endure. regularly.

Henry Tran, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, University of South Carolina and Douglas A. Smith, Associate Professor of Education, Iowa State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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