TEACHER SHORTAGES AROUND THE NATION
Severe teacher shortages are cropping up around the nation — in Oklahoma, Arizona, Nevada (and Nevada), California and elsewhere. There isn’t just one reason for the growing teacher shortages…but at least one reason is present in most locations — so-called education “Reform” is making it harder to be a career teacher.
INDIANA: SAYING ONE THING AND DOING ANOTHER
Indiana is one of those states following a path which seems guaranteed to increase teacher shortages, especially in hard to teach subjects (like special education) and areas (like urban schools). The state has hit teachers, schools and districts with the overuse and misuse of student test scores, the removal of due process, reduction of collective bargaining, loss of revenue which has been transferred to charter schools and voucher accepting private and parochial schools, and pension changes. The goals seem to be, to weaken teachers unions in the state, deprofessionalize the field of education, and privatize public education.
On the other hand, if you read what is posted on the Education Round Table web site (within the State of Indiana site) you’ll get a different picture. The Roundtable is charged with improving “educational opportunity and achievement for all Hoosier students.” Here’s what they say about the quality of Indiana teachers.
Although the state produces a steady stream of new teachers, Indiana schools continue to experience a shortage of qualified teachers in specific content areas and specific schools. Special education constitutes over 80 percent of the shortage, followed by shortages in mathematics and science. Consistent with national trends, the percentage of teachers without full certification is highest in high-poverty districts in the state.
Indiana has made progress in improving teacher licensure. Rules for teacher licensure and renewal are aligned with the state’s academic standards and school improvement plans. Indiana ranks among the top states whose teachers are fully licensed and not teaching on waivers and has been nationally recognized for the high percentage of core academic classes taught by teachers who are fully licensed in the areas in which they are teaching. [emphasis added]
Note that Indiana is “among the top states whose teachers are fully licensed.”
How does that stack up against what has actually happened due to the activities of the state legislature and state policy makers? It doesn’t. The words of the Education Round Table and the actions of the legislature and policy makers are at odds.
In fact, the legislature and policy makers have apparently gone out of their way to make things more difficult for teachers. They have (and yes, I know I’m repeating myself)…
- eliminated due process for teachers
- reduced collective bargaining rights
- demanded that schools evaluate teachers based on student test scores
- cut funding for public education while transferring money to privately run charter schools
- expanded the largest-in-the-nation voucher program providing state funds to private and parochial schools
- reduced funding professional development for teachers
- allowed salaries to stagnate
So, while the Round Table touts the high quality of teachers in the state, the policy makers are making things more difficult for those teachers to do their jobs.
The Education Round Table continues with a list of items to improve student achievement…
Next Steps to Improve Student Achievement:
- Strengthen teacher preparation and licensure through greater integration of subject matter knowledge and instructional expertise. [emphasis added]
- Ensure that all new teachers have training in effective classroom assessment practices, analysis of student performance data, recognition of exceptional learners, and modification of curriculum and instruction to meet differentiated student needs. [emphasis added]
In order to improve student achievement we need to make sure that all new teachers are well trained in pedagogy as well as content areas.
MAKING IT WORSE
The teacher shortage will only get worse as the state makes it more and more difficult and unpleasant to be a teacher. Fewer students will choose to be teachers and the already high rate of turnover (nearly 50% of all teachers leave within their first five years) will continue. As if on cue, policy makers on the State Board of Education have come up with a way to get more bodies into the classroom…
REPA III, adopted by the State Board of Education, over the objections of the Superinendent of Public Instruction, allows anyone with a degree, a B average, and experience in a field to teach that subject in any public high school in Indiana. These novices can start teaching with no “instructional expertise” and no training in “effective classroom assessment practices, analysis of student data, recognition of exceptional learners and modification of curriculum and instruction.” Is this what the Education Round Table calls “progress in improving teacher licensure?”
The lip-service given to “fully licensed” teachers is just so much bull.
Connect the dots. When we make teaching a less attractive career we lose high quality teachers and teacher candidates. Then, in order to fill classroom teaching positions, we lower the requirements for those entering the teaching profession. How does this improve student achievement?
We’re doing it wrong…and we’re making it worse.
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.