Some Alternatives to Mo’ Money to Address the Teacher Shortage

Teacher Selena Erraziqi (left) and Sen. Tim Kaine at Stafford Middle School. Photo credit: Free Lance-Star

Last week, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, visited a middle school in Stafford County to discuss the nationwide teacher shortage and ways to increase “respect for the profession.” Kaine has sponsored federal legislation that would, among other things, provide loan forgiveness and other financial incentives to teachers in rural divisions and fund preparation programs at minority-serving institutions.

In a roundtable discussion with teachers, school administrators, school board members and others, Kaine asked for ideas that would strengthen his initiative. For many present, the answer is higher pay,” reported the Free Lance-Star. “I don’t want us to lose sight of the idea that we have to pay for what we value,” said Stafford School Board Vice Chairwoman Sarah Chase. “If we don’t pay enough, then we get what we pay for.”

It comes as no surprise that, if you ask educators how to deal with teacher shortages, they will put higher pay at the top of the list. But we live in the world we live in, in which teacher pay competes with a perceived need for more counselors and support staff, smaller classrooms, newer school buildings, and the like, while exponentially growing Medicaid expenditures are eating the state budget at the expense of other core state responsibilities.

Perhaps part of the solution for dealing with teacher shortages should be… increase the supply of teachers, reduce burnout, or figure out how to do with fewer teachers. Some ideas worth exploring:

  • Loosen licensure requirements. Many retirees or people seeking second careers would like to pursue teaching but are restricted from doing so by licensure requirements. While a modicum of instruction on how to handle a classroom may be essential before sending a teacher into a classroom, a lot of the theory taught at schools of education is of marginal value. Loosen licensure requirements at the very least for professions where shortages are most acute.
  • Reduce burnout. As one school board member told Kaine, teachers today are expected to be “psychologists, mothers, friends, social workers and protectors of lives” in addition to being teachers. This expectation is tied directly to the erosion of order in classrooms and the introduction of restorative-justice approaches to maintaining discipline. These new disciplinary models need to be evaluated for their impact on teacher morale.
  • Use more technology. Computers can’t substitute for teachers entirely but they can supplement teachers in many fields of study (see the Khan Academy), allowing teachers to handle more students in a class. Many school districts have made big investments in technology and laptops at considerable expense. Are they taking full advantage of that investment?

On the topic of teacher licensure… Here is the curriculum for a Master of Teaching degree in mathematics at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia:

1ST YEAR

Fall Semester:

EDLF 5011: Adolescent Learning & Development (3 cr.)
EDIS 3882: Field Experience (1 cr.)
EDIS 5020: Instruction & Assessment (3 cr.)
EDIS 5440: Applied Teaching with Technology (2 cr.)–fall or spring semester
EDIS 4884: Field Experience: Mathematics (1 cr.)
EDIS 5450: Teaching Mathematics in Secondary Schools I (3 cr.)
EDIS 5710: Content Area Reading (3 cr.)—fall, spring, or summer semester (>50% online)
Math content studies courses as needed

Spring Semester:

EDIS 5000: Exceptional Learner (3 cr.)—fall, spring or summer session
EDIS 5030: Curriculum & Management (3 cr.)
EDIS 3882: Field Experience (1 cr.)
EDIS 4884: Field Experience: Mathematics (1 cr.)
EDIS 5070: Designing Technology Enhanced Solutions (1 cr.)
EDIS 5451: Teaching Mathematics in Secondary School II (3 cr.)
Math content studies courses as needed

Complete the online module Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing, Reporting, and Responding for Educators.

Complete the online module Dyslexia Awareness Training Module.

Take and pass the reading and writing portions of the Virginia Communication & Literacy Assessment (VCLA).

Take and pass the Praxis II Mathematics: Content Knowledge exam (#5161) offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). 

Provide documentation of Red Cross (or equivalent) training in First Aid/CPR/AED.

Summer Session (if accelerating the program):

EDIS 7991 Field Project (3 cr.)
EDIS 5175 Issues in K-12 Education (3 cr.)

2ND YEAR

EDIS 5874: Seminar: Teaching Internship – Mathematics (3 cr.)
EDIS 5884: Teaching Internship – Mathematics (12 cr.)

Spring Semester:

EDIS 7991 Field Project (3 cr.)
EDIS 5175 Issues in K-12 Education (3 cr.)

Tuition and fees for a full-time higher education M.Ed. runs $22,150 for a 12-month program, according to the Curry website. Between the time commitment (earning no pay) and the tuition, that is a not-insignificant barrier. How many of those courses and modules are absolutely essential? Could this be reduced to a single semester — or a single course to give would-be teachers the essential knowledge they need to teach in under-served areas? Is it possible to create a teaching “certificate” that labels a person as qualified to teach, though perhaps less qualified than a teacher who has earned an M.Ed? 

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7 responses to “Some Alternatives to Mo’ Money to Address the Teacher Shortage

  1. I’m amazed that you apparently don’t think this is “much” to teaching but it is consistent with your other “ideas”.

    I’m gonna wait and see who else has a view here…..

    • I think it varies. Way back in 1976 – 1977 I took advanced placement math (calculus) at a Fairfax County Public School (Groveton High School). My teacher was a young woman named Ms. McKensie. She was a good teacher and I learned the material. The next fall I took a somewhat more advanced calculus class at the University of Virginia. The topic was primarily taught by a teacher’s assistant (TA) who was a graduate student in mathematics. The TA was a good teacher too.

      I am sure Ms. McKensie went through the rigamarole of taking all those courses on learning, etc. However, she was teaching math and that was the point. I am equally sure that the TA at UVA didn’t go through any of those courses. He was teaching math and that was the point.

      In the case of motivated students self-selecting challenging public school subjects I’m not sure at all that the general teaching classes are needed. Fred Costello (below) makes a good point about his engineer friend who wanted to retire early and then teach. Should he be allowed to teach emotionally disturbed students in an inner city school without having passed the teaching curriculum? No. Should he have been able to teach AP math to motivated students? Yes.

      One size does not fit all.

  2. An engineer and friend semi-retired young so he could teach. He begrudgingly took all of the required courses. He needed only to complete the classroom practice. Fairfax County Public Schools refused to accommodate his part-time work schedule, assigning him to a distant school for his practice. His part-time work provided needed funding, so he gave up his hope of teaching.

  3. This is all about making sure that only the right type of teachers (those who put the union first) can teach. Clearly, a person needs some instruction in how to teach but today we often see people teaching STEM courses without the core subject matter knowledge that “outsiders” can bring.

    Our K-12 system would benefit if we had both career teachers and those who teach for just a part of their career.

  4. Don’t see anything wrong with your suggestions, but there have been many programs for alleviating the teacher shortage. Never seem to get anywhere. The real problem is government-run schools. No competition. TooManyTaxes seems to understand the problem.

    What does it take to teach.
    1. Desire.
    2. Subject matter knowledge and skills at the appropriate level.
    3. Able to communicate with the student.
    4. Awareness of and the ability to conform with the institutional rules.

    Small children and adolescents don’t require much subject matter knowledge, but it does take some doing to get the attention of the young and to maintain discipline. Is a course or two necessary? I suppose it helps to have taken one or two, but the main thing that is necessary is subject matter knowledge, especially for high school teachers.

    Teaching is like anything else. Practice is needed. A new teacher needs a trial period (classroom practice) where he or she can work with with someone who has been the job for awhile.

    My guess is that the big problem with using retirees is that there would be a higher turnover. Privately run schools would probably find it easier to adapt to a problem like that.

  5. On the issue of non-public schools. Yes. How about some comparisons – on both salary and academic outcomes?

    If Jim and others can provide data that show that kids can be advanced academically the same or better by lower-paid non-public school personnel – I’ll buy it.

    But until then the singular argument that public education costs too damn much – it reminds me of this KIND of dialogue:

    And don’t get me wrong. Just received our semi-annual tax bill – which is OUTRAGEOUS – and fully half of it goes for K-12 education paid for by everyone no matter how many kids they have or if they do have kids but they go to private school or are homeschooled!

    • My kids went to public schools in Fairfax County – K-12. My biggest gripe against the public schools are their bloated bureaucracy. And talk to some teachers; often they will complain about staff.

      If we had a voucher system for all education, public schools would be more responsive to parents and would cut staff jobs/outsource support and put more resources into teaching. I want to see layoffs. Lots of them.

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