The teaching profession has become increasingly unattractive to young people in recent years. With low salaries, limited advancement opportunities, and a lack of job security, many are choosing alternative career paths instead. This is especially true for those considering special education or math teaching roles, where there is a greater demand for qualified teachers but fewer incentives for them to remain in the field. Furthermore, the current pandemic has highlighted the mental health struggles that teachers face on a daily basis, with the long hours and emotional labor often taking a toll after years of service. All this suggests that more needs to be done to make teaching vocationally appealing and attractive to younger generations, such as raising salaries and providing appropriate health benefits. Additionally, governments must invest in teacher preparation programs which provide adequate training and support so that new graduates can feel confident in their chosen profession. By doing this we can ensure that our public schools have access to a steady stream of high-quality and qualified teachers who will stay committed to the profession in the long term.
The situation is expected to get worse before it gets better, unfortunately. Hanover predicts the teacher supply shortage will double within five years. There is very concerning data coming from US graduate education schools as well, where enrollment of teachers getting a masters degree has fallen precipitously, especially for those interested in special education.
Looking at the teacher shortage in California, Darling-Hammond, et al, found that only 5% of students in a recent survey of college-bound students were interested in going into the teaching profession. That’s a decrease of 16% from a decade ago.
Compounding this issue are the changes in teacher demographics with fewer African American teachers entering the profession and an increasing number of veteran educators retiring. Over 60% of black teachers report experiencing discrimination in their current jobs, and over 10% report that discrimination happens regularly. Clearly, equity is an issue for our teachers as well as our students. And if the US expects to model education careers as positive experiences to help recruit new teachers, districts and states are going to have to tackle racism.
To address the critical shortage of qualified teachers, it is essential that school districts recruit more diverse talent who represent different backgrounds and experiences while also investing in teacher preparation programs. Additionally, initiatives such as providing flexible schedules or support for mental health issues can create an environment that encourages retention of quality educators and attract new talent into the field of teaching.
Without taking steps to combat this issue, our students will be left without access to effective instruction from talented educators.