Short on teachers? Import them.

The war on America’s teachers has created an opportunity for teachers from other countries to come here on work visas to teach our children.

Desperate to fill teacher shortages, US schools are hiring teachers from overseas

When Joevie Alvarado became a teacher, she never expected to teach American students 7,600 miles away.

But a dire shortage of US teachers means some schools are taking drastic measures — like hiring teachers from half a world away.

Alverado is from the Philippines…and is teaching in Arizona on a five-year J-1 visa. She makes more money here than back home…

The J-1 Teacher Program was meant to be a cultural exchange, but now it’s being used because there aren’t enough American teachers to fill all the spots available.

TEACHERS SALARIES: LOWER THAN OTHER COLLEGE GRADS, HIGHER THAN IN SOME OTHER COUNTRIES

The war on American teachers has made the job of teaching less desirable and a job that Americans are turning their backs on. Experienced teachers are leaving. Young people are choosing other careers.

So some states, like Arizona, are importing teachers from other countries.

In the U.S. teachers are paid less than other college graduates. They work long hours, at least as long as those other college graduates, often with little support. But the salaries of American teachers are higher than in other countries, so foreign teachers, hoping to earn more money, are willing to come here to teach our kids for 3-5 years.

“The average starting pay (for teachers) in Arizona is about $36,300.”

While that salary may seem paltry for many Americans, Filipino teachers like Noel Que say their jobs in the US are much more lucrative, allowing them to live better.

A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.

It’s a temporary fix, however. The Learning Policy Institute estimates that by 2020 the United States will need about 300,000 new teachers per year. They estimate the 2020 supply of new teachers from teacher training programs to be under 200,000. Meanwhile, between 2009 and 2014 teacher education enrollments dropped by 35%.

Between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction. This amounts to a decrease of almost 240,000 professionals on their way to the classroom in the year 2014, as compared to 2009.

It’s clear that we aren’t going to have enough teachers. We can’t import hundreds of thousands of teachers each year.

EXODUS, WALKOUT, OR SHORTAGE?

Tim Slekar, Dean Of The School Of Education At Edgewood College in Wisconsin says that there’s a teacher exodus, not a shortage.

When we have a shortage, say of nurses, pay goes up, conditions get better and enrollment in nursing programs skyrockets. So if we have a teacher shortage, pay would go up. It’s not. Conditions would get better. They’re not. And enrollment in teacher education would go up. It’s declining. That can’t be a shortage then.

When you talk about the fact that nobody wants to do this job, that parents are telling their kids right in front of me in my office that they don’t support their child becoming a teacher, this is a real issue that needs to be talked about quite differently and that’s why exodus is much better because you have to ask why are they leaving and why aren’t they coming.

Peter Greene, a retired high school teacher who blogs at Curmudgucation and Forbes, also denies that we have a teacher shortage. Instead it’s a…

…slow motion walkout, an open-ended strike that’s hard to see because teachers are walking off the job one at a time.

There are plenty of people who are qualified to fill the positions, plenty of people who could enter a teacher prep program and join the profession if they were so inclined. I’m surprised to see that there’s no good count of all the teacher licenses sitting unused, but simple math tells us that it is the number of people who have left, plus the number of people who gave up before they got a job, plus the people who graduated with a certificate but took another job and never came back, plus all the people who just decided not to even start down that path. Undoubtedly some of those people were ill-suited for the classroom and we are better off without them. But that can’t be every person whose teacher papers sit gathering dust.

What can we do about the need for teachers besides importing them from other countries? Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues at the Learning Policy Institute have some ideas.

First, offer teachers competitive and equitable salary packages. This must include incentives which make working at high-needs districts attractive. As long as teacher evaluations are tied to student achievement, and given the relationship between poverty and student achievement, then fewer teachers will want to teach in high-poverty districts. Giving teachers bonuses for high test scores, like we do in Indiana, isn’t helpful.

Second, entice young people to become teachers. High salaries alone won’t be enough. Things like housing subsidies, loan forgiveness, and student debt forgiveness will help. One of the most interesting ideas from the Learning Policy Insititute is a Grow Your Own program.

Create career pathways and “Grow Your Own” programs to prepare committed individuals from urban and rural school districts.

Third, improve teacher retention by improving working conditions including administrative support as well as a well maintained physical environment. This means that policymakers and legislatures must fully fund public education…as is required by the state Constitution…and end the drain of public funds to private (parochial) and privately run (charter) schools. We can’t afford to fund three school systems.

SYSTEMIC IMPROVEMENT

Public schools need a systemic improvement in order to stem the teacher exodus and improve student learning.

The Chicago Teachers Union discusses this kind of school improvement in it’s publication, The Schools Chicago Students Deserve 2.0.

The problem, as shown by decades of educational research, was not the teachers. The problems in education were the result of too-large class sizes, limited curricula, inadequate facilities, not enough support personnel, and lack of adequate funding.

All stakeholders must accept responsibility for school improvement. That includes federal, state, and local policymakers and legislators who control the flow of school resources.

Schools don’t exist in a vacuum. Societal problems have an impact on our children, and our children bring those problems with them to school. Schools can’t cure all of society’s ills alone.

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