NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

In Search Of More Teachers

August 26, 1999

This year, more than 53 million school-age children will attend kindergarten through grade 12. That figure will increase by more than two million when the 2007-2008 academic year rolls around.

Already, school officials around the country have been scrambling to hire enough teachers to fill classrooms this fall. And the situation will only get worse. Some experts estimate that 200,000 new teachers must be recruited annually.

  • Thirty states now allow teachers to be hired on temporary licenses or certificates, and about 10 states don't even require teachers to acquire a college minor in the subject they are assigned to teach, according to the National Commission on Teaching and the Nation's Future.
  • Fewer than one in 10 high school seniors want to teach in the future -- and specifically among blacks the proportion is only 6 percent.
  • Of teachers who leave, 27 retire, 25 percent quit because of dissatisfaction and 24 percent leave to pursue other careers.

Experts point out that the crushing need to increase the teacher population runs smack up against the imperative not to lower the profession's standards -- which are already often too lax.

A number of educational experts suggest that teacher recruiters concentrate on hiring professionals in other fields to impart their expertise to students: mathematicians to teach math, scientists to teach science. The problem is that teacher certification requirements stand in the way.

Although the certification process is lengthy, the tests are so lax that they invite marginal performers to take their places in the classroom. In Georgia, for example, math teachers can miss half the questions on the test and still pass.

All the more reason, experts say, to scrap the tests for motivated professionals from outside the education establishment and allow them to teach their specialty.

Source: Editorial, "Teachers Shortage Spread as Schools Paper Over Problems," USA Today, August 26, 1999.


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