Teacher shortages

Published September 26, 2014

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and Moderator, NC SPIN, September 25, 2014.

Fewer young men and women want to become teachers, according to a report from the UNC system. It is easy to see why enrollments in schools of education have decreased as much as 23 percent or more over the past five years. Public education is getting beaten up from every angle. Teacher pay has been stagnant; many in the profession are demoralized. And with the ever-changing initiatives and priorities respect for educators, including teachers, has decreased.

We can adopt a glass-half-empty view of this enrollment decline but we would be better served to see it as an opportunity to rethink the whole teacher education equation. So let’s take out a clean sheet of paper and begin.

If our goal is to have the very best schools of education, schools utilizing the most modern and effective training methods in preparing the best and the brightest future teachers, we should begin by acknowledging that we have too many teacher training schools, certainly too few schools of excellence. We cannot dictate which private colleges have schools of education but we can do so within our public university system and should reallocate resources to fewer but better schools of education.

Most every young person beyond the elementary grades has (or has access to) smart phones, tablets and/or laptop devices. They can tweet, text, email, Google and play games on them. It’s how they communicate, learn, play and relate to the world. Mark Edwards, the national Superintendent of the Year with the Mooresville Graded Schools, said one of his first hurdles was matching teacher skills with existent student skills in technology and spent a summer instructing his teachers how to use the new technology and online teaching resources. Our schools of education are largely stuck in old-school methods of training teachers to stand in front of a class lecturing and desperately need reforming.

Next we must address prospective teachers. Amanda Ripley, in her seminal book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, says that Finland and other countries that made the decision to have the best schools of education also committed to accepting only the top 10 percent of high school graduates into those schools, a decision that paid huge dividends. Not only do these countries have really smart, inquisitive academics in the classroom, but the whole nation quickly learned that only the best and brightest could become teachers. It wasn’t long before teachers assumed the same level of respect as doctors, engineers, scientists and other professionals, like it once was in our country. The heightened respect translated into improved morale among teachers and improved conduct from students.

If we have the best schools turning out the best teachers it follows that we must treat them accordingly. Ripley says that countries that have the smartest kids don’t always pay teachers the most, but she says it’s time we took the pay issue off the table by paying teachers enough so that it isn’t a distraction to the main issue, outstanding student outcomes.

North Carolina must demand nothing less than the best…from our schools of education, from our teachers and yes, from parents and students. Teaching is an honorable and essential profession, one in which we can ill afford shortages. We can fix this problem.

September 26, 2014 at 8:25 am
Janette Good says:

Did you know that people like Steve Jobs and other well versed in technology, did not allow it for their children and young folks. Yes they are wired and they live in a "make believe" world. Did you know that most private schools of the elite do not allow technology in the elementary at all? Why? Machines are doing your thinking until you cannot do it yourself. We older folks look at technology with different brains. The creative tech folks know this and they don't want their children using this. We older folks are looking at technology We look at technology as, WOW!, it did that so fast. In our brains we know the one hundred and fifty eleven steps we did to get the same answer. When we use technology to do our thinking, then the young mind don't know how to think because they were never taught. Now all this being said, technology is changing so fast and drastically then why are we wasting classroom time on something they will become outdated by the time they graduate? Teaching with pen and paper and inductive and deductive reasoning is timeless. Now which way are you willing to teach for a lifetime of knowledge? Case closed.

September 26, 2014 at 8:49 am
Norm Kelly says:

Thank you for pointing out that it's NOT just about the money. Yes, we need to pay teachers a fair wage. Yes, teachers need fair benefits, as do all employed people.

Didn't we try raising teacher pay during some Democrat governorships over the past few decades? Didn't we have a string of Demoncrat governors calling themselves the 'education governor'? How did the public school system fair under these self-proclaimed 'education' proponents? I know there was so much to distract from these overwhelmingly positive initiatives during those Demoncrat administrations that it was easy to get distracted from their education initiatives, but there must be some record of how much they improved teacher pay and by default student outcomes/improvements. The only downside to any of the Demoncrat initiatives that I can recall is that Gov Mike implemented another pre-K program, called More At Four as I recall, that took teachers away from public schools since his initiative required actual teachers to qualify for his new pre-K program. Even the libs in the state berated Gov Mike for this initiative since he was taking actual teachers away from 'the classroom' at a time when it was difficult to find qualified teachers for existing classrooms.

Speaking of being difficult to find qualified teachers to fill existing classrooms, why is it, if Demons are so serious about and dedicated to increasing teacher pay and improving 'respect' for teachers, that it was so difficult to hire qualified teachers when the demons controlled Raleigh? If it was truly the demons who love teachers, respect teachers, and pay teachers so well, why is it that recruiting teachers while Demons were in charge was so difficult? Shouldn't it have been easier to recruit good teachers when the kindly, loving, non-racist, top-paying, teacher-respecting, never-cut-the-education-budget libs were in charge of government monopoly schools? Can anyone explain why it was so difficult then? And why is it harder to recruit now?

Please do NOT compare teacher pay between our state and places like Illinois, California, and/or New York when answering any part of the question as to why it's difficult to hire teachers. The cost of living in any of these places makes your pay argument look foolish and moot. Plus, we do need to compare the living environment in our state versus places like New York or Illinois. Because I can guarantee you that teachers will take into account the cost of living as well as things like weather prior to accepting a job in one of those locations. And the only thing California has going for it, mostly, is weather. If you COULD take a teaching job in NC starting at $36,000 OR accept a job in Illinois or New York starting out at $46,000, where are you better off? If you take into account the entire situation? The math works out that you are ACTUALLY BETTER OFF taking the offer in NC than you would be in either NY or Illini. Then the rest of the equation gets taken into account to make it a slam-dunk for NC. And every good socialist/lib/demon knows this. And, believe it or not, so do teachers and teacher-wannabe's. The point is that libs/socialists/teacher unions ONLY compare salary between states and ignore (and want everyone to ignore) every other aspect of teaching, such as cost of living, environment, housing, what it's like to raise a family in any location, etc. etc. etc. For these groups, it all comes down to PAY only. Which is a bogus argument.

September 26, 2014 at 7:51 pm
Jacob Jacobs says:

This is a totally idiot post with no merit whatsoever. A hateful, ignorant post from a far right wing Teabilly type extremist.

September 27, 2014 at 2:03 pm
Tom Hauck says:

Thank you for an excellent posting highlighting one of the problems with our North Carolina education system.

For those who want to know one of the reasons why our poor children scored an End of Grade passing rate of about 17% and our blacks scored even lower in the 2012 -- 2013 school year, check out the way our teachers are being taught.