Teacher shortfall

School districts around the state are scrambling to find classroom teachers. One reason for the teacher shortage, cited in this Crosscut piece, is higher standards, dictated by the original No Child Left Behind law.

According to some, the problem has its roots in the sweeping education reform of the Bush years. Alan Moore, the assistant director of the UW Master’s in Education Policy program and one of the survey’s analysts, says principals perceive federally-mandated quality standards under the No Child Left Behind Act as a barrier to hiring teachers.

Ah, but there are standards for every profession, some more difficult than others. Yet, college students apply themselves in a variety of disciplines to earn the necessary degrees and certifications, from economics to engineering and from architecture to aviation. They do so because they find satisfaction in the subject matter. But more important, I’d say, is that non-teaching professions promise much higher pay and benefits, enough to justify the costs of college, including repayment of student debt.

Speaking of economics, the simple relationship of supply and demand seems to work in most instances. And where the two curves intersect ye shall find a price.

In the case of teachers, there is clearly a demand for more, as reported in the linked article. The supply, however, is constrained. The explanation is not difficult to ascertain: the price for teachers (i.e., compensation) is far below the level needed to increase supply.

Imagine yourself entering college today. What shall I do with my life? What kind of work interests me? What professions pay enough to sustain a decent standard of living?

Teaching would not be high on that list, though, we can imagine further, the student likes being around children and working with them. But for the same or similar effort I can obtain a degree in, say, economics, which would certainly pay the bills.

There is another factor at play. Classroom teaching today offers very little satisfaction, given the top-down impositions of the ongoing corporate reform movement and persistent lack of adequate funding. Those who entered the profession because they enjoy seeing and facilitating the wonder and excitement of intellectual discovery  will soon be disappointed. Teaching has always been challenging. With the  dictates of NCLB and Race to the Top, the profession is becoming well-nigh impossible. Many erstwhile enthusiasts will depart in five years or sooner, exhausted and disheartened.

And we wonder why there is a teacher shortage?