By Emily Feistritzer
If you’ve been thinking of teaching, your timing couldn’t be better. School districts are scrambling for qualified teachers. Why? The numbers tell the story. Right now, 50.7 million students are in U.S. elementary and secondary schools, but by 2025, the number will increase to about 51.4 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. States will need to hire thousands more teachers than are currently employed.
Why Acute Shortages?
States laid off teachers during the Great Recession. That affected the number of enrollees in preparation programs. From 2009 to 2014, enrollments in teacher preparation programs dropped from 691,000 to 451,000—a 35% reduction according to a study by the Learning Policy Institute.
A few years ago, districts started hiring again as the economy improved, but they’ve struggled to find qualified teachers.
Wide Variety in Distribution of Teachers
The South has a higher turnover rate than the Northeast, Midwest, and West. However, shortages vary widely across states and even across districts, based on salary, access to teacher preparation institutions, working conditions, and policies affecting teachers.
In most areas, turnover in cities is higher than in rural areas, where people are less mobile, or the suburbs, which are often better resourced with a higher tax base.
Shortages in some fields are especially acute, especially in the STEM fields of math, science, and computer technology as well as in English-as-a-second language and special education. Half of all schools and 90 percent of high-poverty schools don’t have enough licensed, qualified special education teachers. Every state has a shortage in some geographic area and teaching fields, and some, such as Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi and several others, have reached the crisis point. Here are a few illustrative vignettes.
Tucson students start this week and the city just announced it’s still looking for 96 teachers.3 Last fall, a school district near Tucson, Arizona hired parents without teacher training to help stem a long-term teacher shortage. Seventeen of 24 uncertified new teachers in the K-8 school were parents, and more than 12 parents teach high school there.
Colorado needs 3,000 new teachers, but enrollment has declined by about 25% in the state’s teacher preparation programs during the past five years. A third of teachers in Colorado are 55 and older, and many will retire in the next five years. The state reports an acute shortage in rural areas.
In Mississippi, the situation is no better; 41 districts have shortages. Retired teacher Hymethia Thompson, age 70, returned to the classroom in Jackson last year when her district issued a call for help. It’s the first time in four and a half years the school has garnered a licensed 11th grade English teacher. Rural schools in Mississippi are in dire straits, and the number of students graduating from preparation programs in the state is declining, just as in Colorado and other states.
In the past four years, South Carolina has experienced a 30 percent decline in the number of graduates eligible for teacher certification.
Utah was 900 teachers short last year, and this year’s shortage is at an all-time high.
Student Performance Suffers when Teachers Aren’t Prepared
Low-income students suffer the most from teacher shortages. Across Mississippi, about 17 percent of teachers in low-income schools are not licensed versus about 5 percent in higher income areas. We know it’s a longstanding problem across the U.S. that poor students end up with the least qualified and experienced teachers. Research consistently demonstrates the unfavorable impact on students. When teachers aren’t prepared and licensed, student performance on standardized exams is lower and they’re more likely to need remedial education.
If you want to teach but don’t have a good idea of how you’d handle 30 first graders or 16-year old adolescents, that’s where good quality preparation comes in. As a teaching professional, you want to be good at what you do. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reports that “students who have highly effective teachers three years in a row score as much as 50 percentile points higher on achievement tests than those who have infective teachers for three years in a row.”
A 2014 report from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education finds that teachers who are well prepared—who have formal education in child and adolescent development, educational psychology, classroom management, teaching methods—are less likely to quit after the first year.
A Digital Program for Today’s Students in Today’s Learning World
If you’re interested in teaching but can’t afford to spend two years full-time in graduate school, there are excellent alternatives in today’s online learning world.
TEACH-NOW is a high quality, accredited digital teacher preparation program. You can complete the coursework portion in the comfort of your home, making it convenient and accessible for working adults and parents. Our online platform allows you to take our program wherever you are—whether you’re in Kalamazoo, Bogota, or Jakarta—in short, anywhere in the world.
If you’re looking into teaching, you’ve seen 12 month, 18-month, and two-year graduate programs, many ranging in cost from $12,000 to over $30,000. TEACH-NOW’s complete certification program is 9 months and costs $6,000.
We can keep the cost much lower than traditional institutions because we are digital, with only one office in Washington, D.C. Our instructors work from their computers where they live; they are comfortable in a digital environment and will help you adjust to the environment if you’re new to online learning.
Graduating from the TEACH-NOW program provides you with a valuable credential from a professionally accredited program.
Our graduates attest to the program’s utility and effectiveness; 97% of our graduates would recommend the program to others. We have Alumni Ambassadors in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia who can share their experiences with you.
Visit our FAQ page and contact TEACH-NOW for more information; visit us on Facebook and Twitter.