The Teacher Shortage
Educators cite low pay, lack of respect and support, and high-stakes tests as causes.
To the Editor: Re “Across Country, a Scramble Is On to Find Teachers” (front page, Aug. 10):
We applaud you for shining a light on the economic forces that helped create the national teacher shortage: low pay, higher student loan debt and recession-linked layoffs. But if you ask teachers why young people are shunning the profession, and why so many abandon it after just a few years, you’ll get an earful.
We have always asked teachers to be a combination of Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Mom and Dad. Now, we judge them by a faulty, narrow measure — one standardized test in English and one in math — and then blame them for not being saviors. Teachers are used to the pressure cooker but are stressed out because they aren’t getting the support, resources, time and respect they need to do their jobs.
Educators have been hit with a barrage of new mandates but given little or no support or training to make them work. Think of the debacle in New York: testing kids on content covered under the new Common Core standards before giving teachers the time, curriculum or latitude to actually teach that content, and then using those tests as the basis of teachers’ evaluations.
Thanks to our test-and-punish fixation, high-stakes test prep has eclipsed teaching and learning and is sucking the creativity and joy out of classrooms. New and seasoned teachers want careers that allow them to make a difference, grow and effect change. Sadly, for too many, the profession today appears not to offer these essentials.
Nationally, we must get our priorities straight and do what’s necessary to recruit, support and retain great teachers — in good economic times and bad.
President, American Federation of Teachers
To the Editor: I am an elementary school teacher. I love working with children. I considered my vocation constructive, honorable and a necessary part of building our democracy. While I would like to be paid better, I have taught for 20 years despite being poorly paid. And while I would like to be able to use the bathroom when I need it and have uninterrupted lunch breaks, lack thereof has not prompted me to seek another career. It’s not even being the scapegoat for so many social problems or continually set up to fail that make me want to leave. I can, however, tell you why I don’t want to teach anymore.
I am unable to see individual children as data points as required by the corporate reform movement. We are being forced to subject students to an inordinate number of tests that do not enhance their learning or childhood. These tests provide profit for corporations, and the results are used to ruin teachers. Children are collateral damage.
I do not like my professional value to be determined in a profoundly unfair manner through standardized tests and through observations by people whom I do not respect or trust.
I know I have made a difference for thousands of children. It breaks my heart to seek employment outside of what I consider my calling, but I cannot stay in a system that is motivated by money, not by what’s best for kids.
URSULA ANN KELLY
To the Editor: Gov. Chris Christie says he wants to punch the teachers’ union in the face. Time magazine publishes a cover story about efforts to make it easier to fire teachers. And yet The New York Times sees The Teacher Shortage - The New York Times: