Given the historical surplus, that might be OK, except that the prospective new teachers aren’t seeking degrees in the specialties in which they’re needed most. That leaves school districts scrambling for teachers each year, especially in middle and high school math and science, plus foreign languages, physical education and other areas.
In 2003-04, Ohio’s public and private, nonprofit colleges and universities awarded 55,207 bachelor’s degrees, and 6,759 of them, or 12.2 percent, were in education. By 2014-15, the number of bachelor’s degrees had risen to 69,592, but only 4,983 were in education, shrinking the share of education degrees to 7.3 percent.
Tom Lasley, who retired as the dean of the University of Dayton’s education school and serves on the board of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said the reasons aren’t complicated: Many of today’s debt-conscious students don’t think a teacher’s salary offers a good-enough return on investment for the average student debt of $30,000; many still think there are too many teachers, even though jobs in the hard-to-fill specialties are going unfilled; and the pressures of high-stakes testing and controversy over the role of teachers make the job feel low-status.
Ohio State University’s College of Education is selective and receives more applicants each year than it can admit, but the university was concerned enough about a lack of diversity in the applicant pool that, in 2012, it abandoned a system in which all students studied for five years and emerged with master’s degrees. Now, education students in most disciplines finish in four years with a bachelor’s degree. They can choose to continue for another year and receive a master’s.
Under the master’s-for-all system, “We really weren’t recruiting enough first-generation-college or minority students,” said Erica Brownstein, assistant dean for teacher preparation. “Teaching has traditionally been the No. 1 way out of poverty,” she said. “Now, there are more options.”
That’s especially true for those who might teach at the high school level, she said. Because those college students must essentially complete the equivalent of full degrees in their content areas, plus all the education-profession coursework, many — especially those in science and math — find better-paid prospects in industry.
“What we’re asking them to do is really a lot,” Brownstein said.
She thinks the key to ensuring enough teachers for all disciplines is to create high school-to-college pipelines, working with “teacher academies” at high schools and career centers.
Some people have suggested that schools should offer a salary premium to attract math and science teachers who easily could go elsewhere, but that idea is controversial among unionized teachers. Although Lasley thinks that money could help recruit needed teachers, he doesn’t see it as a “silver bullet” and would like to see recruiters talk about something else: the joy of teaching.
Amy McClure, chairwoman of Ohio Wesleyan University’s education department, agrees. “I tell them about that ‘aha’ moment, when a child gets a concept at last,” she said. “I tell them it’s hard and it’s challenging, but you can make a difference every day, and you have to use your intellect to do it.”
Ohio State senior Brittany Clemmons hasn’t wavered from her intent to become a teacher since her kindergarten days, despite plenty of skepticism among friends who insist she’ll be poorly paid and burdened by constant standardized testing. She’s finishing a year of student teaching at Hilliard’s Alton Darby Elementary and is excited to be applying for jobs, even though she knows that her chosen field — preschool through third grade — is one in which candidates still outnumber jobs.
“I know it’s very competitive,” Clemmons said. “It is very stressful.”
But she’s determined to find a job working with the age group she’s come to love.
“I love seeing the incredible progress they make in one year,” she said. “I love how they love learning and they love you.”
Mary Mogan Edwards, The Columbus Dispatch, Thursday March 31, 2016 8:02 AM
Drop in education majors sends Ohio schools scrambling for teachers