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Thompson: Where Have All the Teachers Gone?

NPR’s Eric Westervelt, in Where Have All the Teachers Gone?, addresses the “alarming drops in enrollment at teacher training programs.” Westervelt is correct; the decline in the numbers of prospective teachers is “the canary in the coal mine.” 

In California, enrollment in teacher education programs is down by 53%, but the problem is more pervasive. TFA enrollment is also down.

Westervelt reports:

The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you've got the makings of a crisis.

Bill McDiarmid, the Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education, attributes the K-12 decline to teachers who “simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.” McDiarmid says that “the job also has a PR problem.”  Teachers are “too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media.” He concludes:

It tears me up sometimes to see the way in which people talk about teachers because they are giving blood, sweat and tears for their students every day in this country. There is a sense now that, 'If I went into this job and it doesn't pay a lot and it's a lot of hard work, it may be that I'd lose it.' And students are hearing this. And it deters them from entering the profession.

Westervelt also cites an analysis by Marguerite Roza and Amanda Warca from Georgetown's Edunomics Lab that argues that boosting class size for “great teachers.” But, this is just more spin from the foundations that have demonized teachers. If these non-educators had any experience in high-challenge classrooms, they would understand the absurdity of their recipe for teacher burnout.  If Roza and had their way, the new headline would be “Where Have All the Great Inner City Teachers Gone?”

To improve instruction, we should ask, “where are teachers going?” Are they going to the SXSW and being allowed to bring new technology in their class to replace bubble-in accountability? Are they going to multiculturalism workshops to learn how to better communicate with diverse students as they actually are? Above all, are teachers going to be allowed to “teach the student,” not an aligned, coordinated, and tested curriculum - to build on students’ strengths and not just remediate their weaknesses?-JT (@drjohnthompson)   


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This article is spot on. I would never suggest that a student of mine go into the profession of teaching. They are smart and valuable people and I don't want them to join a profession that does not value their hard work.

Is it really the signs of the times that some are leaving the teaching profession get better salary in other jobs than teaching. Many of us had lost the value and dignity of being a Teacher. Being a teacher myself I want to read more of this article. It is very interesting.

it is not about the--it is about the total lack of respect! from students, from parents, from entitled kids, from administration, from politicians. which political party gets to tell doctors and lawyers how to best implement their professions. they have boards which are populated with their peers. not teachers--we are dictated to by parents, administrators, politicians and a variety of people not in education. then when the thing blows up--guess who gets the blame??
It's not my place to run the train

The whistle I can't blow,

It's not my place for me to say

How far the train's allowed to go.

It's not my place to blow off steam

Nor even clang the bell,

But let the darn thing jump the track

And see who catches hell !

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