No Math Teacher Shortage, Study Says
This just in from Education Week:
Two University of Pennsylvania researchers are questioning a basic tenet of national efforts to enhance U.S. economic competitiveness: the idea that colleges and universities are producing too few mathematics and science teachers to meet the demand in the nation’s classrooms.
“I admit I’m being heretical,” said Richard M. Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the university. “But it’s not that we’re producing too few math and science teachers. It’s that we’re losing too many.”
Mr. Ingersoll and his research partner, David Perda, calculate that colleges and universities are producing 2½ times more math and science teachers than schools require to replace those who are retiring.
The findings are important, Mr. Ingersoll said, because they suggest that national efforts aimed at expanding the pipeline of new math and science teachers are misdirected. If policymakers really want to ensure that those subjects are being taught by skilled teachers, he said, they ought to focus on retaining the much larger pool of science and math teachers who are already in schools.
This is a big part of the problem. There is so much head scratching about how to inspire people to pursue teaching in math and science, when the fact is we would not have such a voracious appetite if so many new teachers did not bail within a few years.
The researchers found that twice as many eligible math teaching candidates entered the field as retired in 1999-2000. But the 8,021 newly minted would-be teachers that year fell far short of the 13,750 who left for any reason. The total number of math teachers employed for that year was 182,456.
Yikes. The solutions sound familiar. Improving working conditions, mentoring and supporting new teachers, offering better pay, managing student discipline. I don't know a school that would tell you it's not trying to do some or all of these things (pay scales are a different story,,,) But I don't know how many schools do these things well. A lot depends on the principal. Perhaps the real shortage is in effective school leaders?
An interesting post script. Here is a testimonial from a middle school science teacher at an inner-city school in Oakland. She is explaining the reasons she wants to leave her job on this Edweek blog.
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