There has been much talk about a critical teacher shortage, that many say nothing will solve unless drastic measures are taken. But serious teacher shortage talk was emphasized in 1990. Voila! We got Teach for America (TFA).
Before that, there were attempts to address teacher shortages in the emergency areas–special ed., science and math et cetera.
Some states and the federal government funded college coursework for those studying shortage areas. And there is some of that still today. Here are some programs funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. But the early nineties changed more how teachers would be made. TFA, originally, we were told, was supposed to solve the teacher shortage problem in poor areas.
But TFA and a host of other residency programs through The New Teacher Project are now competing against real teachers for their jobs. How bad are these shortages?
When you look for current information, you find when teacher shortages are discussed they often refer to reports from the Alliance for Excellent Education backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and various corporations (who stress online instruction as a solution) and The New Teacher Center is also backed by many of the same people.
The individuals who highlight a teacher shortage, also imply that real teachers aren’t doing their jobs well.
We saw this with the Gates Foundation’s Teacher Effectiveness Initiative. Teachers are being driven out of their public schools through Value Added Measurement (VAM), or by having their public schools shuttered to make way for charter schools.
This is not a teacher shortage. It’s purely an effort to get rid of veteran teachers! They also love the Teach for America types and they want them to replace professional teachers!
Teachers often step away from their profession due to circumstances surrounding what they teach, how they are made to teach, and the conditions under which they must teach, but they most likely wouldn’t leave under better circumstances.
So why isn’t anyone working harder to stop them from leaving?
Whether there is a teacher shortage or not, if you push the message that there is a teacher shortage, administrators in school districts will have an easier time convincing the general public that they need to spend millions to bring in Teach for America.
Consider Orlando, where they recently did just that, and where they are planning on credentialing residency teachers from the University of Central Florida.
Why, in all these years, since the 1990s, have we not been able to work harder to create a true teaching profession, one that will adequately cover the professional teaching needs of the country? If policymakers knew back then, by forecasting future teaching needs, that a teacher shortage was imminent, why didn’t they work more constructively with education schools to make sure those needs would be met by real professional teachers?
If you read the Orlando Sentinel’s description you will see that it is skewed to imply that Teach for America types are the best teachers around, which has never been proven. Never! And if there truly are openings in the schools there, it most likely is because real teachers were driven out!
How bad was the teacher shortage in Seattle for example? This is from The Hechinger Report and The Nation:
In 2009, the Seattle school district was hardly in the grip of a teacher shortage: 13,800 teachers had applied for just 352 full- and part-time positions. But the schools were facing a $25 million deficit, and TFA was asking for a $4,000 annual fee per recruit (area philanthropists would later cover it; on average, schools contracting with the organization pay $5,000 a year for headhunting and support costs). So the district’s decision to pursue a contract with TFA quickly became controversial. In board meetings that were sometimes standing room only, dozens of community members — including parents, teachers and high school students — signed up in record numbers to testify against the district’s contract with the organization, urging the administration to hire more experienced local teachers. Several people even brought homemade signs with slogans like NO TFA NEEDED!
The push to replace real teachers is prominent around the country.
Bob Braun wrote last February about the threat of TFA taking over 700 teaching positions in New Jersey after those teachers were laid off!
Last summer, Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman met with 18 local union presidents, “all of whom said they’d seen teachers laid off to make room for TFA members,” according to an article in USA Today. “I don’t think you’ll find a city that isn’t laying off people to accommodate Teach for America,” Stutman said.
In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district, for instance, the superintendent laid off hundreds of veteran teachers but spared 100 TFA-ers. TFA, meanwhile, expanded into Dallas this fall, bringing in nearly 100 new teachers, even though the district had laid off 350 teachers in the 2008-09 school year.
Some reports say the projected teacher shortage isn’t really due until 2020. That provides us time to project where the shortages will be and in what areas. Teacher education programs could improve those areas and make sure teachers, real teachers, are ready by that time to replace teachers who are retiring. But if you look at the way fast-track teacher programs are now being pushed into universities and teacher education is being changed at warp speed, to focus on data collection, high-stakes testing and Common Core, it looks like a tried and true teaching profession will never again become a reality.
Just like it has not become a reality since the claims of a teacher shortage in the past!
America could make a real teaching workforce if people insisted upon it and rejected the influence by those who are taking charge of what teachers teach and how and what students learn. A professional teaching workforce could and should be the pride of America!
Back in 2002, Richard Rothstein, a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute and senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law, who has written much about education, wrote in The New York Times, at that time, that teacher shortages are usually a myth. If teachers are given decent salaries they will work in difficult conditions and there doesn’t need to be any shortage.
It is also hypocritical to hear the same groups who bemoan what is possibly a trumped up teacher shortage, also lament how much money such a shortage is costing. Implying there is a serious teacher shortage will lead job seekers to unproven online teaching programs where they can get quickie teaching degrees. There’s lots of money to be made making fast-track teachers for a supposed teacher shortage.
The problem is, in the long run they won’t be very good teachers, and that will hurt everyone.