Rarely does this blog get on “a roll” or a “mission”. However, if you read last week’s blog you are aware of the critical shortage of teachers our nation is facing and why the educational establishment does not seem to have a solution. I have come across additional disturbing information regarding the teacher shortage that I feel compelled to share with my colleagues working in social services.
FEW NEW RECRUITS AND HIGH TURNOVER
The Washington Post reported last week about a new Utah initiative that was approved by that state’s board of education in June to the effect that the state’s school districts and charter schools may now hire teachers without any teacher training at all.
“This policy was created to recruit non-teachers into education and fill Utah’s public school vacancies – a tough task, as Utah’s Office of Education says that 42 percent of new teachers quit within their first five years, while enrollment has increased by nearly 10 percent. The state Office of Education has made clear its intention to analyze the causes of the profession’s high turnover with the help of external researchers. Utah’s teachers say that the reasons behind teachers leaving are no mystery, with low pay and high-stakes testing placing stress on those in an already stressful profession.” (Washington Post, August 2016)
NO STANDARD IS THE EASIEST STANDARD TO MEET
Utah isn’t the only state to recruit non-teaching professionals into public schools: nearly every state offers some type of non-traditional pathway to licensure. However, Utah’s temporary license differs from the other states in that it requires no pedagogical coursework or field hours prior to placement in the classroom and Utah isn’t alone in allowing unlicensed teachers to teach their own classes. Since January, Alabama has allowed for the hiring of “adjunct” teachers with a high school degree or higher and no teacher training.
The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss points out that these state initiatives would have failed to fulfill the “highly qualified teachers” requirement of 2001’s No Child Left Behind law. When the Every Student Succeeds Act replaced NCLB last year, the “highly qualified” requirement was dropped completely. Now the requirement is that teachers meet “the applicable State certification and licensure requirements.”
RAISE THE WATER OR LOWER THE BRIDGE
If you read last week’s blog, Teachers, Unappreciated and Under Compensated, you may have seen this “solution” coming. It appears that the knee-jerk bureaucratic response to the critical shortage of qualified teachers was not to increase the pay rate to compete with private industry for college educated professionals, but rather to lower the qualification standards for teachers.
A SLIPPERY SLOPE
Lowering standards has never improved quality in any endeavor. Utah, Alabama, and many other states have now stepped onto a “slippery slope” where the quality of education will decline, rather than improve, each time we lower teaching standards to match low teacher pay.
ANY PORT IN A STORM
America’s future is at stake if we allow our educational standards to slip any further. To adopt the belief that there are no academic standards for teachers but rather anyone who is willing to show up for the low pay and high stress is an acceptable candidate, will prove to be a fatal error.