Finding candidates to fill this role, especially good candidates, may be more difficult than policymakers are willing to admit. Despite their clear interest in public service, the students I meet betray little enthusiasm for teaching as it now exists. And I see even less indication that major trends in public education—standardization, the proliferation of testing, the elimination of tenure and seniority, and expansion of school choice—have made teaching any more attractive as a career option. Prospective teachers, much like the young educators already working in schools, are especially skeptical of accountability measures that tie a teacher’s job security or pay grade to student test scores. And many are bothered by the way teachers are blamed for much broader social problems.
As a result, today’s college students, including those currently marching on campus, are significantly less likely than their parents to see teaching as a viable way to become agents of social change. Of all age groups, voters 18-29 are the most pessimistic about the teaching profession. Only 24 percent are “very likely” to encourage a friend or family member to become a K-12 teacher today.
In a comparison across 14 professions, teaching ranked last among respondents who felt that their “opinions seem to count,” or included workplaces with “an environment that is trusting and open.” Three out of four teachers complain that high stakes testing takes too much classroom time away from actual teaching. Nearly 9 in 10 teachers feel that linking teacher evaluations to students’ test scores is “unfair.”
“All teachers do now is read from scripts and administer tests all day,” a Senior psychology major at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro told me last spring.
Why would anyone in their right mind go into teaching these days when you are evaluated via test scores (often the scores of students you don't even teach!), you can be "drive-by evaluated" at any moment by an administrator who will come into your classroom for fifteen minutes and rate you using a rubric that you cannot possibly fulfill in that fifteen minute snippet of teaching, your seniority and tenure protections are stripped from you, your pay is increasingly tied to "student performance" as measured by standardized tests and you have no autonomy to teach what you want to teach or how you want to teach but must read from pre-approved EngageNY scripts that suck the soul and life out of education?
Seriously, why would anyone want to go into that king of "profession"?
I'm not sure if education reformers, whose goal has always been to destroy public education and privatize schools, wanted to create teacher shortages and disdain for teaching among young people or not.
I know they wanted to drive down perceptions of teachers within the culture (thus the decades long "Teachers Are Criminals!" public relations extravaganza in the media) and I know they wanted to diminish teacher autonomy, work protections and compensation so as to exert more control over schools while simultaneously lowering labor costs.
But if they thought that young people wouldn't notice how shitty a job teaching is these days and decide they'd rather do anything but that for work, they were mistaken there.
Teacher shortages are already a problem in many states (google the phrase "teacher shortage" and you'll see) and they are only going to get worse in the near term as the economy continues to improve (and it is - the Fed is finally going to raise interest rates next month for the first time in nearly a decade) and the job market gets better.
It will be interesting to see how the education reform movement responds to widespread teacher shortages.
The shortages haven't come to New York yet, but they'll get here too and once they do, pushing shitty contracts that strip teachers of autonomy, seniority, and work protections while imposing longer days/hours/health care costs on them isn't going to be the way to attract younger people to the profession.
Reformers may think technology will replace the human teacher, but I have a hard time seeing that working well over the long haul state-wide.
And the way things are going now, they're going to have an awfully hard time finding enough younger people to become teachers to replace the retiring older ones (or fleeing ones!)