Revealing article in The New York Times today about diversity and teacher training. Several of education’s pathologies on full display.
First, there is this:
It is particularly difficult to recruit qualified mathematicians and scientists as teachers because they can earn much higher salaries in other professions.
“In their first year as an engineer, they’ll earn more than a teacher will ever earn over a 30-year career,” said Rick Ginsberg, the dean of the School of Education at the University of Kansas.
The irony of complaining about recruiting problems while saying things like this….Anyway that “statistic” is not even in the ballpark of being true *(see note below about wording of this). To see how ridiculous it is just, for example, assume that a teacher only makes $25K a year (far below national averages and most starting salaries) for 30 years. They’d earn $750K. You have to be quite a special engineer to land a starting salary like that. Here in the real world the median starting salary for an engineer is about $59K. For teachers it’s about $30K. And, of course, there are other issues to consider including salary growth over time, days worked annually, or benefits and job security, that further cloud comparisons like this.
A more straightforward point is that we have a shortage of teachers in some subjects – especially some STEM disciplines – and it’s pretty plausible that how and how much teachers are paid are part of the problem. You don’t need bogus assertions to make that point.
Then there is this:
Ms. Robinson said she feared that recent changes in public education policy as well as statements about failing schools could deter candidates. “We’ve been through a phase where all the target for fixing everything is to change out the teachers,” Ms. Robinson said. “So we are finding recruitment is down in educator preparation programs.”
Well, perhaps, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, among actual teachers those saying they’re dissatisfied with the job is actually declining. And overall the nation produces more teachers than it needs so a decline is only a problem to the extent that it’s coming in subjects or geographies where there are shortages. And it’s equally plausible that some of the changes would make teaching more attractive to new candidates.
In practice, the diversity problem is driven by a few issues. First, as the article notes college completion rates for minority students are a national scandal. Second, students who do complete thankfully have a variety of options open to them. This is the same challenge education faced (and continues to face) as women have more opportunities in the workforce. As Sharon Robinson notes in the article, education needs to step up its game on recruiting. Obvious, but true and important.
How to do that? Well, the villainous Teach For America offers a set of ideas about how to aggressively recruit students into teaching but you won’t hear many ed school deans talking about that. TFA’s minority recruitment (34% of their teaching corps last year and 27 percent in 2005) outpaces what traditional education schools are doing, 18 percent according to the analysis The Times is writing up. A bunch of other ventures from Math For America to UTeach offer other ideas. You can add turning an ideological blind eye to useful examples to the pathology list, alongside talking down the profession.
*A few readers note that the statement might have just been poorly constructed (something we all do at times) and the word “ever” meant to convey that a first-year engineer makes more than a teacher ever will make in a single year. That’s a more plausible assertion, and a plausible explanation, but also not a correct one substantively. Even discounting all the issues around comparing pay, many teachers make more than $59K annually. As I’ve noted here before, the averages are also not where the analytic action is on teacher pay, the issue is the variance — especially on the low-end in some communities.