In the comments to my previous post about school privatization, there was discussion of news reports that there is a shortage of teacher applications in Indiana lately. See, e.g. this Associated Press report.
Teachers have been treated poorly by policy makers lately. They are collateral damage to people who see the public school system as a big pot of money ripe for the taking. They are government employees which makes them anathema to certain ideologues. Because everyone has been to school, there is a temptation to believe that anyone can do their job. They have been politically active in support of lawmakers who support public education which makes them fair game to opponents of those lawmakers.
We can learn from other countries with successful school systems that the way to improve school systems is to to pay teachers well, treat them as professionals, and create an incentive for the best and brightest to go into the teaching profession. In the United States, and Indiana in particular, we seem to have an inclination to see whether doing the exact opposite will work instead.
Per the news report:
School districts across Indiana are having trouble finding people to fill open teaching positions as the number of first-time teacher licenses issued by the state has dropped by 63 percent in recent years.
The Indiana Department of Education reports the state issued 16,578 licenses to first-time teachers, including teachers with licenses in multiple subject areas, in the 2009-2010 school year. That number dropped to 6,174 for the 2013-14 school year, the most recent for which data were available, the Greensburg Daily News reported.
. . .
Enrollment in Ball State University’s elementary and kindergarten teacher-preparation programs has fallen 45 percent in the last decade. Other schools are reporting similar declines.
Denise Collins, associate dean with the College of Education at Indiana State University, said enrollment there has fallen 7 percent, and the number of students completing an education degree has dropped 13 percent.
This is a problem that wasn’t created overnight and fixing it will take some time. We can begin by not regarding teachers as interchangeable widgets where schools would necessarily want to have as many of the cheap, new teachers as possible and regard experienced, but more expensive, teachers as a liability.