The Real Reason For Teacher Shortage.
There are many articles written these days about the teacher shortage. They raise the issue but most of them don’t seem to ask or dig into the reason why. If they do, they claim without evidence that it is low pay. I think this is a lazy explanation considering how many college graduates cannot find a job or work for lower pay than teachers. My guess is that it is the unions.
Why? Well, consider that there are many professions in America that limit the supply of people who could do those jobs including law, medicine, and engineering. This is done to keep earnings up because as long as the supply is low and demand is high the earnings are high. By constraining the supply of schools, the output of engineers and doctors and lawyers is low. With lawyers, there are plenty of schools but the Bar exam is so difficult that it limits the number of people who practice law which keeps the pay high. For teachers that limiter is the Certification Exam.
A recent story referring to national guard teaching said: “you wouldn’t lower requirements for pilots, why for teachers”. Whoever wrote that story must have had a terrible teacher, because that statement has faulty logic. The requirements for pilots are high because they hold sway over life and death of hundreds of people. Lowering requirements for teachers will not result in death for hundreds of people (unless that teacher is a flight instructor). However the article brought up a good issue: considering the low pay and ease of the job (it's not surgery or rocket science), why are the requirements so high?
To become a teacher one has to get a graduate degree, even if they teach kindergartners. This is overkill because any high school kid can teach middle school courses (poorly of course but still could), this is why they often tutor. In fact, the US is the only country where one needs a graduate degree as most of the world only requires a bachelor's. One could argue that the need for high requirements is class control. But that argument is undermined because if it were true then one would expect the requirements for a substitute teacher to be even higher. After all, they come into a new class with no authority, and yet they hold control of the class without any formal training.
The real reason I suspect is supply constraint. Constraining supply allows the unions to negotiate higher wages. Now I am not arguing that there ought to be no unions or that wages should not be higher, they should be higher and teachers should be able to organize and have the right for collective bargaining. However, the restriction of supply doesn’t stop bad teachers from entering, it only restricts good teachers who have other options.
In essence, the process aids not the best but the most determined (the great ones) to be a teacher and the ones with no other alternative other than to go through the process (the terrible ones). For instance, I applied to be a substitute teacher during a massive teacher shortage. I have a Physics and Electrical Engineering degree from one of the best schools in US as well as two graduate degrees also from some of the best schools. Because I graduated 20 years ago it is difficult to find my SAT’s but I do have my GRE score. Now the Commissioning Board refuses to accept GRE scores (mine were in the top 80% for math and verbal and top 95% for writing). They also refused to review my transcripts, requiring a letter from my University before they could believe that I am able to read and write in English (somehow twenty back and forth emails didn’t convince them of this ability). This is on top of the fact that their processing time for applications (which must be printed and sent by mail) takes at least three months, and this is during a teacher crisis!
Now think, what other qualified professional would wait around for months and put up with this amount of red tape? Only the most persistent or those who have no other options. If the Commission on Credentialing truly wanted the best candidates they would not use an arbitrary test from 20 years ago that even colleges no longer use. They would also not use a ridiculous 6-hour tests that a smart 7th grader can pass. They would instead look at the best candidates, review their resumes, and look at their teaching history. But they don’t (although I’m sure the schools do before hiring, but with the current shortage they probably don’t look too carefully). And this is why in spite of the requirements, I (and I’m sure you as well) have had a few good teachers and a lot of terrible teachers. Because this process doesn’t keep out bad teachers, it just creates friction to keep out the good ones.
So until journalists begin to ask these questions and push our government and unions to explain these absurd rules and barriers our teacher shortages will not improve and neither will their quality.