"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, October 10, 2011

Who Will Staff Tomorrow's Schools?

The number of new teachers is growing in the US as more and more experienced teachers are leaving the classroom for less stressful, better paying jobs or early retirement. Where will the mentors for new teachers come from? Will schools have a balance of new and experienced teachers?

Walt Gardner, in The Changing Demographics of the Teaching Profession says that teachers are getting younger and younger.
In the 1987-88 school year, for example, 14 years was the most common level of experience. But by 2007-08, it was one or two years.
And new teachers are coming from other certification routes...not just university schools of education. It doesn't matter where they get their training (assuming that they get any at all), they will eventually be trained through the classroom experience.
...new teachers from any certification route, no matter how promising, are untested. The crucible of the classroom will determine if they have what it takes to be successful...nearly half of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years...It is psychologically costly for students because the deep bonds they form with their teachers are severed when their teachers depart.

The teaching profession is going through a metamorphosis. No one knows what the eventual outcome will be. But I don't think it will be recognizable in the next two decades. 
I say that primarily because the fun has been taken out of teaching by endless rules and regulations that have effectively tied the hands of classroom teachers. Teachers in the past never chose the profession for power, fame or money. They did so because they loved their subjects, enjoyed young people and felt appreciated. It will take unusually dedicated college graduates to pass up opportunities outside of education, as immediately measurable outcomes become the only thing that matters.
It has become harder and harder to teach. With the testing insanity growing to include pay based on test scores, teachers are going to avoid teaching hard to educate children. The gaps between rich and poor will grow.

In a blog entry titled A Moment of National Insanity, Diane Ravitch said,
The corporate reformers have done a good job of persuading the media that our public schools are failing because they are overrun by bad teachers, and these bad teachers have lifetime tenure because of their powerful unions...I'm sorry to say that Race to the Top, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have stirred up a frenzy of anti-teacher sentiment that hurts even our very best teachers, by their much-publicized search for "bad teachers." 
... 
Our schools remain subject to a failed federal accountability system. We are packing children into crowded classrooms, ignoring the growing levels of child poverty (the U.S. now leads all advanced nations in infant mortality), and putting fear into the hearts of our nation's teachers. Who will want to teach? How does any of this improve schools or benefit children? Do you understand it? I don't.
Some experienced teachers are leaving the country. NBC aired an interview with Stephanie Olson, a high school English teacher in Arizona for 10 years with 2 Masters degrees.

Classroom 'crisis': Many teachers have little or no experience
Stephanie Olson...has had enough.

"I'm doing more work, but I'm getting less money every year," she told NBC News. "Instead of being excited about a job and looking forward to your job, you begin to fear your job. It becomes stressful, tiring and takes a toll not only on your health, but on your family."

So the Phoenix mother is uprooting her life and moving to Abu Dhabi, where she said will earn better pay and be more highly valued as a teacher. She landed the job through Teach Away, a Toronto-based agency that helps North Americans find teaching jobs overseas.
"Sometimes, the best teachers are the ones to leave," Olson said, adding "they feel like they are mistreated."

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