Saturday, April 11, 2009

Anyone Want to Be a Teacher?

Interesting news in the New York Times. This article details how the baby boomer generation of teachers is going to retire and take large numbers of teachers out of the pool. Aggravating this situation are the large numbers of rookie teachers who leave the profession within 5 years. According to the chart given, 50% of the teachers in Washington State are 50 and over.

From the article:

"Over the next four years, more than a third of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers could retire, depriving classrooms of experienced instructors and straining taxpayer-financed retirement systems, according to a new report."

“The traditional teaching career is collapsing at both ends,” the report says. “Beginners are being driven away” by low pay and frustrating working conditions, and “accomplished veterans who still have much to contribute are being separated from their schools by obsolete retirement systems” that encourage teachers to move from paycheck to pension when they are still in their mid-50s, the report says.

To ease the exodus, the report says, policy makers should restructure schools and modify state retirement policies so that thousands of the best veteran teachers can stay on in the classroom to mentor inexperienced teachers. Reorganizing schools around what the report calls learning teams, a model already in place in some schools in Boston, could ease the strain on pension systems, raise student achievement and help young teachers survive their first, often traumatic years in the classroom, it says."

This issue seems to reflect the thinking behind merit pay for teachers by both the Obama administration and the Gates Foundation. I really like the idea of having more experienced teachers stay on to mentor less experienced teachers. The state of New Mexico has a whole tiered system. I haven't read the whole thing but the point is that one state is already trying it.

I don't think it's a "the sky is falling" situation but clearly, something needs to change in how we create, keep and support good teachers.


Jet City mom said...

For many people, working for the government, provides higher pay, more benefits and more stability than working in the private sector.

You know how many GTE engineers are working at Home Depot?

II don't think it is that public school employees are low paid- heck the superintendent makes $100,000 more than the state governor, & they have one of the strongest unions in the state, but newly minted teachers have a hard time getting in a district- because the " ropes" seem to be, work as a substitute for a few years until you get known.

I have the observation that this process of "subbing", seems to be taking the place of a well established mentorship- structure for young teachers in some schools.

I know some teachers actually like subbing- but it sounds awful to me- I would like to see more of a pool assigned to specific schools and given extra guidance during that period so they feel that they are skill building, not just being thrown to the wolves.

MathTeacher42 said...

Another glib NYT article with few thought out practical and paid for solutions - other than more hand waving and need for studies from people who barely have a clue what the job of teacher is like, but, who are highly credentialed.

This is my 4th year training math in a high school - I'm being generous to say that 50 of the 1000+ hours of training I've had has been actually useful helping our kids gain skills to participate, gain skills to compete, and gain skills to change the world.

I'd LOVE to have experienced teachers help me put together some lessons and assessments, to help execute the lessons, to help grade the assessments, to help make fixes. INSTEAD, we get this idiotic 'training' where we're supposed to incessantly re-invent the wheel because if we construct our own teaching then ...

I don't know - look it up in 1 of the edu-babble databases filled with edu-babble.

The GREAT mentors who've helped me help my (OUR) kids have been breaking the rules - they're just supposed to pontificate and ruminate and illuminate and emanate ...

Ooops! by the way (BTW, LOMG!) - I work with lots of these over 50 teachers with lots of experience - ask them about their gone-poof! 401(k), and ask them where are they going to get the 12 grand a year for health "insurance" until medi-whatever kicks in, and you'll find few of them are ACTUALLY going to bail out soon.

Teachermom said...

I am not super-young - I am in my mid-to-late thirties - and I work with a good number of teachers who are old enough to be my mother and have enormous amounts of grace and wisdom. The few that are younger than me are toying with the ideas of either leaving the district or leaving the profession.

I believe that a lot of teachers will be retiring soon and that there will be a crisis. The economic downturn may delay it by a few years, but it is coming. I also think that the new punitive/corporate approach to running districts is turning away many bright young people. SPS's approach to teacher retention ("you're replaceable") is going to come back to haunt them in the near future. So, DO any of you want to join the profession? Melissa?

I was never given a mentor, and subbing is very different than traditional teaching in most situations. It would be nice if they could find a way to coordinate mentoring and subbing for promising young teachers.

Mr. Edelman said...

I second much of what MathTeacher42 said. Most "training" is a waste of time and money. I would benefit much more from working along side a good, experienced teacher.

I came to public-school teaching in late middle age. I've had successful careers in other fields; education is the only field I've been in where employees with large and pressing responsibilities have little direct opportunity to learn from their more experienced colleagues. Instead, we attend workshops because we have to--workshops that are a waste of money for everyone. Everyone, that is, but the people getting paid to give the workshops.

Now that we're in an economic crisis in this state, we'll see more older teachers staying on well into their sixties. The state Senate estimated in its budget that 3,000 teachers would lose their jobs next year. Keep in mind that is 3k for two years, because they're writing a budget for the biennium. I wouldn't be surprised to see further cuts next year in a supplemental budget. I expect the offical unemployment rate to exceed ten percent in this state and the percentage of people without full-time work to approach twenty percent.

Not enough teachers? We won't have to worry about that for years to come.

Dorothy Neville said...

Science News had a slightly different take. They are looking at college -- academic science jobs. Due to shrinking of university budgets, shrinking of retirement funds and lack of forced age-related retirement, there won't be any room for the next crop of science PhDs in academia. A generation of research scientists lost.

I thought the K12 article (generic for country) referred to retirement rules that forced teachers out after N years. I don't know what Seattle or Washington rules are, but don't we have something like that? After 30 years you have to retire or lose long term pension benefits? That whole retire-rehire thing?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think either my husband (already a teacher; he's a professor) would consider K-12 teaching but for all the time it takes to get a teaching certificate. I certainly see this in my case but not my husband's. I'd like to see some kind of waiver for people who already do have a teaching background or a shorter (maybe compressed) period to work on a teaching certificate.

That said, I care a lot about public education but I humbly observe that I'm not sure I have what it takes to be a goode teacher.

Josh Hayes said...

emeraldkity sez:

"I would like to see more of a pool assigned to specific schools and given extra guidance during that period so they feel that they are skill building, not just being thrown to the wolves."

I agree with this, and I wonder how true that might already be. I know that at AS1, for instance, we generally have a couple of subs who are brought in again and again during the year. What with all the various reasons for teachers to need a sub (professional development, along with illness and so on), if a school wants to have a designated sub or two, they can probably be working there several days a week!

This also allows them to become known to the kids, and regarded less as a "sub" than as "Jim, who teaches our class sometimes".

Mr. Edelman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan Mc said...

The state certification issue keeps a lot of good candidates (teachers with experience from out of state or private school) from working in public schools. I agree with Melissa that the State should institute a painless certification waiver.

In my experience, the whole teacher certification process does not prepare graduates to teach. The student teaching practicum is scripted and unlike real conditions in the classroom. Teacher preparation classes are usually taught by professors who love education but are not veteran classroom teachers. In the ivory tower its easy to make perfect lesson plans that incorporate all possible best practices without regard to all of conditions at play in a real classroom. My old principal used to joke on professional development days, "Its amazing how much work we can get done with no kids around"

Some private schools have highly successful mentorship programs where a new hire is given a super light teaching load (one subject for elementary (ie, reading or math) or 2 periods for secondary or being a subbing for a year. The rest of their time is spent shadowing a veteran teacher (who is also given a slightly reduced load) and both are given shared planning time. The new hires are also given access to resources and instruction on pedagogy and classroom management that is relevant to the population they are serving.

These new hires are not paid a lot but they usually have an opportunity to make extra $$ coaching or doing other school related jobs. I think its a great way to let potential teachers get their feet wet. It has the added benefit of being an inexpensive way for would-be teachers to discover that they are not cut out for the job.

Jet City mom said...

I don't know if it was planned this way- but Summit had in the elementary school a team of teachers, one much younger, that not only shared two classrooms, but they taught the same group for more than a year.

You can learn alot I think by having a longer relationship with the classroom.

D also had an experienced teacher in the 3rd grade, who took on a student teacher every year - he was unusually experienced- and had all the field trips planned out by the end of the summer.
( he also had a getting to know you picnic at the end of summer for the incoming class- with notes written by the outgoing class, which I thought was very helpful- however the principal stomped it out, because students were not supposed to know what teacher they were going to have)

She also had in middle school the same teacher for 7th & 8th grade- and again I think by being able to see the kids over a longer period of time, can give you more information about what is effective.

( it also gives the kids more transition time- I remember it being pretty stressful switching teachers every year- it seemed like when you had barely gotten the hang of their expectations, it was summer)

Team teaching, even when it involves age peers, could give more support than simply " time for collaboration"

Older D had a team of women who had taught together for years and complemented each other well. This was also in a mixed age class- They had three levels of kids in the classroom, K-1-2, but she started the school at 1st grade.

She now works in the Portland schools and they have teacher training and meetings that seem to be pretty effective at least she seems to be getting something out of it. -
( the principal also used to be @ Summit- small world eh? -)

Re the waiver, I was at an educational conference with profs from the UW, who would love to have more of a career change and work directly in the schools.

They are in science/math and have been consulting with SPS teachers to support their knowledge of advanced curriculum, now that some students are taking Calc AB in 9th grade and maybe AP Chem in 10th.

Science has changed ALOT since some of the teachers have been in school and with all their other obligations it is particularly hard to keep up, I think.

These profs have Phds and often post Phd-work, but the district wanted them to get an Ed degree to be in the schools. Which no surprise, they do not want to spend time & money to acquire.

Seems interesting that we value college equivalent classes in high schools- like AP, IB and Running Start- yet we won't approve alternative certification.
Colleges of course, don't require profs to have a degree in education. ( neither do private schools)

dan dempsey said...

Consider the professional development provided for math.

Usually it consists of pedagogical tips, rarely is there an emphasis on academic mathematical content.

We find that the USA teachers are mathematically content knowledge deficient when compared with their international counterparts.

Here is the current problem:

As Math teacher42 points out...
the real source of the mess is ignored.

Math Teachers have become in many situations the chattel of math ignorant administrators.

Carolyn Adolph said...

I wanted to point out that KUOW preparing to cover education reform. I have a question form up at the station's Public Insight Network at www. kuow.org/publicinsight. You can read about the Network there. Here's a direct link to the question form: http://www.publicradio.org/applications/formbuilder/user/form_display.php?isPIJ=Y&form_code=16c075ce80d9. Please consider sharing your expertise and experience with KUOW.

Charlie Mas said...

First of all, I would dearly, dearly love to teach. My dream occupation would be middle school math teacher. Unfortunately, I couldn't support my family on the pay and I don't have the credentials to get the job anyway.

Second, just about everything about the teaching profession is twisted. The pay is off market, the benefits are off market, the tenure is bizarre, the management is atrocious, the certification is alien to the work, the training is irrelevent... seriously, just about every single aspect of the job is wrong, wrong, wrong. No wonder the world clamors for reform. All of these skewed factors are the legacy of a dysfunctional history. At just about every turn, the right path was rejected in favor of an inappropriate compromise.

Why is continuing education for teachers demand-driven?

Why don't the teachers control the continuing education?

Why don't the teachers design the mentoring programs?

Who is in charge of these things for the District and why aren't they responding to the complaints?

dan dempsey said...

Charlie said:"the training is irrelevant... seriously, just about every single aspect of the job is wrong, wrong, wrong. No wonder the world clamors for reform. All of these skewed factors are the legacy of a dysfunctional history. At just about every turn, the right path was rejected in favor of an inappropriate compromise."The really odd part is the reformers are professional consultants whose principal talent is the ability to get continuing employment while generating no positive changes.

Equally odd is that there is rarely any empirical data to drive decisions, so instead anecdotes are treated like scripture in decision making.

Look at the process of the math instructional materials adoptions; just about every single aspect of the job is wrong, wrong, wrong.--------
To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. ... Rarely do I see any evidence that district level Educational decision makers are even aware of the idea of system improvement .... and looking at the results it shows.

Teachermom said...

Well, Charlie, if you can't be a teacher, I am glad that someone who understands how the bureaucracy works and thinks like a teacher is working so hard to improve our schools.

SolvayGirl said...

Years ago, we lost out on a terrific teacher for our Montessori 4-5 class at Graham Hill, because he could not get WA State Certification in time (our existing teacher gave notice on the last day of school). The candidate had 20+ years of experience as a certified Montessori teacher in Massachusetts and a MS in Anthropology, though he did not have a teaching degree. His references were stellar and he would have been a wonderful addition to our staff. He ended up relocating to Portland.

Maureen said...

Are there reputable 're-entry' teacher cert programs available in Seattle that don't cost a fortune and take years and years?

seattle citizen said...

Maureen, I beleive the quickest program for a cert is one year, available at a couple of the private tech-oriented colleges.

I also believe that someone can get an emergency exemption to staff a position if a) there is pressing need, and b) the person is currently enrolled in a cert program.

dan dempsey said...

seattle citizen is correct.

Most of these programs like from City U etc. run from 12 to 18 months.

There is a program called troops to teachers for those who spent at least 6 years in military service.

A few years ago Aki Kurose had a position in math that was filled by an assistant that was enrolled in a degree certification program. They were not certified but were placed in a position that required a certified math teacher. When no one is available you just make do.

Nationwide "Teach for America" (a two year program) has lots of college grads with very little in the way of education classes teaching in regular certified positions. Only high GPA students from top colleges are usually accepted. 85% graduated from college the previous year.

NYC Teaching Fellows does pretty much the same thing each year placing about 2000 un-certificated persons in teaching positions as special ed teachers, math teachers, science teachers, elementary teachers in high poverty schools etc. This is a three year program leading to full NY certification and a Masters in Education. Only college grads apply and each year there are close to 20,000 applicants and around 2,000 are accepted into the NYC teaching Fellows program. These individuals are paid on the certificated teacher salary schedule during their teaching fellow years. There is something similar in Sacramento.

dan dempsey said...

Want to be a teacher?
The MetLife survey finds teachers feeling much better today than in the old days.


Dorothy Neville said...

See the NYT 4-20-09 Room for Debate on
Teaching: No Fall Back Career

"Good teachers must also be connoisseurs of error. Over time, good teachers can anticipate predictable errors and misconceptions, understand the logic behind the error, and help move students toward a deeper understanding. Work on the teaching of mathematics at the University of Michigan has demonstrated that what they term “mathematical knowledge for teaching” distinguishes teachers from mathematicians and more effective teachers from less effective ones.

So those who are thinking of teaching should be prepared for a steep learning curve in the first few years on the job. Research suggests that it takes about 4-5 years for a teacher to hit her stride; unfortunately, by year 5, all too many teachers stride out of the profession.

Although career changers may enter teaching with experience, maturity and expertise that can serve them well, some research suggests that they may experience culture shock when they confront the classroom."

Teaching is hard, damn hard. Awfully rewarding when done well, but awfully hard to do well.