INDIANA’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE NATIONAL TEACHER SHORTAGE
It’s no secret that the nation is suffering under a teacher shortage which promises to get worse before it gets better. The image of a career teacher, retiring after a career of 30 or 40 years is diminishing. Nearly 8% of teachers quit before retirement and new teachers leave at an alarming rate.
Why? Here is a part of what Indiana has done to create its teacher shortage…
Under the guise of “reform,” policy makers in Indiana have attacked public education and the teaching profession
- …by restricting teachers’ collective bargaining rights. School systems and teachers unions used to be able to bargain class size, insurance, pay scales, work hours, preparation time, and anything else that the two parties agreed on. Now, the only things allowed on the bargaining table are money and insurance.
- …by removing the right to due process. Due process in K-12 education has been mislabeled “tenure.” It gave a teacher the right to a public hearing in front of an impartial judge with binding arbitration. Now, teachers can be fired without any hearing. Indiana teachers still have a right to a meeting with their superintendent or the school board. No impartial hearing is required.
- …by introducing testing as one of the criteria for teacher evaluations. Teachers have no control over their students’ family income, neighborhood safety issues, emotional health, or the ability of their parents to provide adequate medical and dental health care. All of those issues have a bearing on students’ achievement, yet teachers are the only ones “held accountable” by this bad science. The same policy makers who require that testing be a part of evaluations (aka the legislature and governor) aren’t held accountable for the lack of jobs or the high levels of poverty in a neighborhood. Teachers, however, are deemed responsible even when achievement suffers due to systemic societal problems.
- …by diverting millions of tax dollars to testing corporations, charter schools and vouchers, resulting in reduced funding for public education. Legislators and politicians pocket campaign donations from testing companies, charter owners, and pro-voucher organizations. Testing drains public education dollars through purchase costs and lost instructional time while providing little in return. Charter schools and private schools don’t perform any better than public schools.
- …by reducing teacher pay through merit pay schemes. Indiana school systems no longer pay teachers based on their years of experience or educational achievement. Indiana’s average teacher pay dropped by 10% between 1999 and 2013. Is a falling salary an incentive to join a profession?
- …by changing the rules to allow untrained personnel into public school classrooms. Why would a young person want to amass $30,000 or more in college loan debt on education credentials when they knew they could be replaced by someone with no education training at all? The idea that “anyone with content knowledge can teach” reflects the ignorance with which policy makers approach the field of education.
- …by reducing the power of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the only state-wide elected education office.
The only good thing that I can say about the way “reformers” in Indiana have treated teachers is that it’s just as bad, and sometimes worse, in other places.
TEACHER SHORTAGE ACROSS THE NATION
Just one example…Wisconsin…
What’s our Republican leaders’ answer for the teacher shortage? Allow them to bargain for a raise? Help them pay off student loans? Give them more support in the classroom? Help the public better understand the key role teachers play in America’s democracy? No, none of the above.
Their answer is to actually lower teaching standards instead. Allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree to step in and teach a class based on his or her work experience. No education credits required. No experience dealing with slow-learning students or kids with emotional problems, handling conflicts or developing stimulating lesson plans.
The teacher shortage is a national problem caused by competition for taxpayer funds – privatizer’s greed – devoted to education. The drain of money from public schools into the pocketbooks of privatizers and corporate testing accounts has added to the fiscal crisis felt by many school systems.
A COMING CRISIS IN TEACHING?
Much of the recent focus on teacher shortages is due to the release of A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S., a report by Linda Darling-Hammond’s Learning Policy Institute. The report provides four recommendations. Unfortunately, each requires an economic commitment to education that the nation has been unable to muster.
Based on research reviewed on what matters for recruiting and retaining teachers, policies should focus on:
1. Creating competitive, equitable compensation packages that allow teachers to make a reasonable living across all kinds of communities…
2. Enhancing the supply of qualified teachers for high-need fields and locations through targeted training subsidies and high-retention pathways…
3. Improving teacher retention, especially in hard-to-staff schools, through improved mentoring, induction, working conditions, and career development…
4. Developing a national teacher supply market that can facilitate getting and keeping teachers in the places they are needed over the course of their careers…
Teachers salaries nationwide are about 17% behind those of comparable workers (based on weekly, not annual, earnings in order to offset the claim that teachers work less during a full year than other workers). Are states willing to increase the amount of money provided for public education? Are they willing to provide more resources based on need? Every one of the four recommendations listed above would require additional funding. Past history suggests that Americans are reluctant to pay for what’s in their own best interest.
Other reports from the Learning Policy Institute:
Informed by the research, the authors offer the following recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers…
This brief summarizes the results from a study of the recruitment, employment, and retention of minority k-12 teachers. The study examines the extent and sources of the minority teacher shortage—the low proportion of minority teachers in comparison to the increasing numbers of minority students in the school system. Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey/Teacher Follow-Up Survey, we found that efforts over recent decades to recruit more minority teachers and place them in disadvantaged schools have been very successful. But these efforts have been undermined by the high turnover rates of minority teachers—largely because of poor working conditions in their schools. The conditions most strongly related to minority teacher turnover were the degree of teachers’ classroom autonomy and input into school decisions—both increasingly important when coupled with accountability pressures.
The Republican candidate for Indiana Governor used the same “reform”-based comments about retaining teachers. In his comments below, “high-performing” likely means a teacher whose students score high on achievement tests. His other comments seem to be exactly what we need – treat teachers as professionals, provide resources, give teachers a voice.
I’ll believe it when I see it.
Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Republican candidate, told IndyStar the state should offer incentives for high-performing teachers to stay in the classroom.
“First and foremost, we must treat teachers as professionals and as role models, as they were for me, then equip them with the resources they need to succeed,” Holcomb said in a statement. “We also need to ensure teachers are a part of the conversation and have a seat at the table. Educators know what is best for their schools.”
NPR has generally been supportive of school “reform” because of their ties to foundation money – the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.
We actually have a teaching situation right now that is probably as bad as it’s been for many, many decades. Teacher salaries have been declining since the 1990s. Teachers are earning about 20 percent less than other college graduates who are similarly educated. Even after you adjust for the difference in the calendar work here, in 30 states a teacher who has a family of four is eligible for several sources of government assistance, including free or reduced-price lunch for their own children in school.
Teacher working conditions are worse than they’ve been. Most states that cut their budgets because of the recession have not even returned to pre-recession levels of spending, which means books and supplies and materials and computers are in short supply. Class sizes are larger than they used to be. Then we have more and more children in poverty, more and more children who are homeless, so in highly impacted communities, the needs that teachers have to be responsive to on behalf of the children are also very, very taxing.
One potential solution the researchers offer is that while much focus is placed on recruiting new teachers into the workforce, policymakers should instead focus on ways to keep the teachers that are already there, especially those working in hard-to-staff schools.
Cutting the attrition rate by half, to 4 percent, the researchers underscored, could solve the entire teacher shortage problem.
“Teaching conditions have hit a low point in the United States in terms of salaries, working conditions and access to strong preparation and mentoring – all of which would attract and keep a stronger, more sustainable teaching pool,” Darling-Hammond said.
Few teachers now work until retirement. Instead, many increasingly move to other professions, go into education administration, or stay home with their families.
This editorial is specific to the state of New York, but it’s recommendations, with tweaks for specific states, could work everywhere.
1. Eliminate the EdTPA. This system, promoted as increasing standards for teachers, is in reality so onerous and poorly thought out that it is discouraging qualified applicants to the profession. It costs both teacher candidates and the state millions, and has resulted in teacher candidates being less prepared for teaching rather than more so.
2. Eliminate standardized testing in the public schools and for teacher candidate preparation. Research shows the best indicator of a student’s success is their GPA, not standardized test scores. Standardized testing merely adds to the coffers of the private testing industry. Reinstitute teacher-created Regent’s exams. Teacher created exams are age appropriate, more accurately test the learning of students and cost much less than corporate prepared tests.
3. Let teachers mark their own students’ tests. It’s cheaper and better.
4. Eliminate corporate “canned” teaching modules created to meet Common Core Standards, and allow teachers to create their lesson plans. Teachers are the experts; release their creativity so that they can teach students properly.
5. Make the teaching profession attractive financially. Eliminate Tiers V and VI in the teacher retirement system. One of the tradeoffs teachers had accepted for the relatively low pay for the amount of education required was a decent pension. Tiers V and VI were created to punish teachers, not reward them for their service.
6. Create a “Teacher Bar Association” to establish educational requirements for teachers for public and charter schools, thus officially recognizing that teaching is a profession. Lawyers, doctors and CPAs are experts in their fields, as are teachers in theirs.
7. Establish a program to help raise the status of teaching in the public’s consciousness. Few want to enter a profession which is constantly derided by politicians and the press.
8. Common Core has been a disaster; eliminate it. While the intent was perhaps a good one, it was created by non-educators more for political and profit motives than educational ones.