Nation Bracing For Impending Teacher Shortage, Hoyle And Kracht Warn

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: June 15, 2009

Mentoring programs and more aggressive recruitment in fields other than teaching will help school systems brace for the upcoming wave of teacher retirements that will exceed any in history, says a Texas A&M University educator and trainer of school administrators.

About half the nation's veteran teachers and administrators are already over 50, and the number of young incoming teachers is nowhere near what is needed, says John Hoyle, a 52-year veteran of education and a 34-year professor of K-12 administration in the Texas A&M Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development. And once teachers enter the profession, about half of them leave within the first five years - partly because of "high-stakes testing and accountability requirements," he says.

Maturity could be one tool to help new teachers, Hoyle says.

"It's encouraging to see people crossing over from other disciplines to teach, and if they're willing to learn the pedagogy, classroom management and human learning, they make excellent teachers," he says. "I'd like to see us implement a year-long induction year with a top-notch veteran teacher and a college advisor. Then we'll come out with a really solid teacher."

For several years Texas A&M has been the state's top university producer of teachers in science and math, as well as bilingual and special education teachers, but those certified through the university don't begin to fill the gaps in staffing across the state, says James B. Kracht, associate dean for academic affairs in the Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development. Alternative certification programs also prepare teachers, but they have their own problems, Kracht says. For instance, he says some for-profit alternative certification programs offer certification with as little as 48 hours of training.

"Texas A&M teachers have a five-year retention rate of 82 percent, while those graduating from alternative certification programs have a much lower retention rate: about 50 percent," he says. "Secondly, some research has indicated that teachers prepared in university-based teacher certification programs have a more positive impact on student learning than those coming from alternative certification programs."

The teacher shortage might hit Texas harder than other states because of its relatively younger population, higher fertility rate and higher in-migration, Kracht says. Within the state many small districts - primarily in rural areas -- are expected to continue to lose population, while urbanized areas are expected to continue to grow.

Kracht fears state officials will relax rules/standards for teacher certification rather than expand university programs by offering scholarships and paying competitive salaries to in-service teachers.

He contends the better option is to "face the challenge, improve conditions of practice, support university expansion in teacher education and make scholarships available."

"I like to view all of this as an investment - not a cost," Kracht explains.

The college of education at Texas A&M has responded by intensifying efforts to recruit students interested in teaching in high-need fields: math, science, bilingual, special education and foreign languages, Kracht says. Three full-time recruiters seek applicants for these areas, and they are emphasizing recruitment to the math/science middle school program (grades 4-8) and secondary math and science (grades 8-12), Kracht says.

The education program coordinates with the colleges of science, geoscience, agriculture, engineering and veterinary medicine at Texas A&M to produce high-quality math and science teachers for secondary schools, Kracht says. Students who have completed their degrees can opt for the Graduate Secondary Certification program, which leads to teacher certification and a master's degree. Also, students across the state can obtain certification through "Accelerate," an on-line program that leads to secondary certification, he says.