According to a recent article in Education Week, “Between the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic years, the number of people completing a teacher education program declined by almost a third, according to a report released last year by the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. Traditional teacher-preparation programs saw the largest decline—35 percent—but alternative programs experienced drops, too, the report found.”
Many factors have been attributed to this decline. According to the USA Today, there are “myriad reasons: low pay and morale, mounting political and academic pressures, health and safety concerns. A generation of teachers hitting or nearing retirement and another generation of prospective teachers deterred by the profession’s flailing reputation and the sacrifices it necessitates.”
Education Week author Alyson Klein highlights one additional factor- “Teachers have a seemingly never-ending to-do list: Make bulletin boards. Plan lessons. Connect with parents. Do bus duty. Chaperone the prom. Write college recommendation letters. Run active shooter drills. Participate in professional learning communities. Learn new software. And on and on.
Do prospective teachers eye those job responsibilities and say, “no thanks, I’ll find another line of work?” Ninety percent of educators surveyed by the Ed Week Research Center say yes.
In fact, more than half—56 percent—fully agree that the demands placed on teachers are too high and that is why it has been hard to attract and retain people in the profession, and 34 percent partly agree with that perspective. The survey of 1,301 principals, teachers, and district leaders was conducted in June and July.”
According to Klein’s article, “...the typical teacher works 54 hours per week, 25 of them spent teaching students, according to the first annual Merrimack College Teacher Survey commissioned by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College and conducted by the EdWeek Research Center. Just 37 percent of teachers felt they had control over their schedules, the Merrimack survey found.”
An article in Forbes confirms this trend and notes, “Teachers are demanding autonomy, better working conditions and more support in addition to higher pay. Unless districts are able to meet these demands, they may continue to lose many experienced educators.”
State policy makers must address funding issues so school districts have the resources to allocate recurring money for salaries. School districts must take steps to alleviate mounting stress like allowing increased classroom autonomy and better working conditions at the school level. Community leaders and citizens must advocate for the schools we desire with legislative decision makers and district leaders. Instead of piling on more demands to solve society’s ills, the community must find ways to offer meaningful support of their schools and educators.