College students preparing to don the cap and gown and accept their diplomas are far less likely today to be looking at a career in teaching — and that could be putting our future youngsters’ education at risk.
In 1975, more than 20 percent of college students majored in education, and that was more than any other major. But now, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, just one in 10 Americans are pursuing a career in education. This serious teacher shortage is leaving school districts scrambling to find qualified teachers, and projections suggest it is only going to get worse.
As we visit job fairs and work with our university partners, we are seeing less and less highly qualified candidates, especially those licensed to teach seventh to twelfth grade. There just aren’t enough graduates to go around.
If we are seeing this impact now, what will it mean 10 years down the road?
Teaching is a great profession, and as I wrap up my third decade as an educator, I would highly recommend it. Unfortunately, I have often heard from those outside of education, “I would never want to do your job,” and “Who would ever want to put up with that?” While this may be said with good intentions, when it is overheard by impressionable ears, it actually hurts the profession.
When was the last time you heard a valedictorian who wanted to become a teacher? We hear engineer, doctor or attorney, but we all know a major reason high achieving students are prepared to go into these worthy professions is because of the skills and dedication of their PK-12 teachers. But even knowing this, why are there less and less folks moving into the field of education?
We certainly aren’t getting help from legislators. The use of state report cards and invalid, unreliable and inaccurate state tests to rank and to sort districts and teachers doesn’t encourage anyone to want to travel down this career path. Add public scrutiny, a general erosion of respect for the teaching profession and so many testing requirements and teaching guidelines, even those who begin their careers in education aren’t as likely to stay throughout their professional lives.
But we can’t push all the blame on others, we need to toot our own horns loud enough to recruit the best and the brightest. Human capital is the key to success in any organization. Raw product in the hands of a master craftsman produces quality results.
The key to any successful district or building is having great kids, engaged parents, supportive community and top-notch teachers. If educators and parents aren’t encouraging, recruiting and mentoring our own best and brightest to be teachers, how can we expect anyone else to do it for us?
If you know a caring, dedicated, focused, empathetic individual who wants to work their tail off and make a real difference in the world - encourage them to become a teacher.
Kyle Ramey is superintendent of Oakwood City School District.