Education Reform

NPR: Where Have All the Teachers Gone?

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NPR broadcast a story that identified a genuine problem—the startling decline of people entering the teaching profession– but offered incoherence and confusion about the causes and solutions for the problem.

“Several big states have seen alarming drops in enrollment at teacher training programs. The numbers are grim among some of the nation’s largest producers of new teachers: In California, enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years. It’s down sharply in New York and Texas as well.

“In North Carolina, enrollment is down nearly 20 percent in three years.”

Why?

Bill McDiarmid, dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education, “points to the strengthening U.S. economy and the erosion of teaching’s image as a stable career. There’s a growing sense, he says, that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.

“The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you’ve got the makings of a crisis.

“The job also has a PR problem, McDiarmid says, with teachers too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media.”

All of this is true, although I don’t see much evidence that the economy is creating sizable numbers of high-paying middle-class jobs for new college graduates.

But the story goes on to quote Benjamin Riley, who previously worked at the NewSchools Venture Fund, a key ally of Secretary Duncan and a core actor in the corporate reform movement, promoting test-based teacher evaluation, non-union charter schools, and other policies that discourage teachers. While at NewSchools Venture Fund, Riley wrote frequently about how terrible teacher education programs are and how wonderful Common Core is.

Riley created a new group called “Deans for Impact,” consisting of 18 education school deans (including McDiarmid) committed to change. Exactly what those changes are is not yet clear.

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