U.S. teacher shortage reaches new heights

Jacob Dillard

The United States has a nationwide teaching shortage, yet this is hardly news. The American Federation of Teachers in 2017 says each year 300,000 public school teachers are needed nationwide. Although this shortage has always existed, it has recently reached new heights.

There a few reasons for this shortage: one is that teachers simply aren’t enjoying their jobs anymore. In a survey cited by the Washington Post, satisfaction rates for teachers in 2013 were at a 25 year low of 39%, 23% lower than in 2008. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 instituted standardized tests in math and reading areas, and Georgia has implemented Milestones and Student Learning Objective (SLO). In the same survey, 51% of teachers reported that they felt great stress several days of the week. While testing may not be the sole cause of this stress, the increasing amount of standardized tests which, according to the Georgia Department of Education, “serve as an indicator for teachers’ impact”, is a very stressful moment for teachers because of its reliance on how well their students perform on a single exam.

The increasing number of standardized tests have also dissuaded future teachers because the teaching environment is less authentic. It’s difficult for teachers to actually teach if students are constantly taking standardized tests that, speaking from my own experience, students don’t take seriously. This new age of schooling is more centered on how well a student can memorize rather than how well a student can actually learn. How can the U.S government expect young adults to volunteer to teach in a system that they know themselves is inherently flawed?

Renowned author and teacher of literacy Nancie Atwell, recipient of the Global Teacher prize in 2015, didn’t speak highly of her own profession. “If you’re a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you,” she said in an interview with CNN. The most shocking statistic was found by the magazine Education Week,  who held a survey on whether or not they would recommend teaching as a profession. By a margin as wide as 5 to 1, the majority of respondents said they would not recommend the profession. The most shocking part about this statistic is that most of the readers of the “Education Week” are teachers themselves.

In an ideal society, the brightest kids would become teachers, so that quality education for future generations could be guaranteed. However, it is hard to convince these star students to actually become teachers when the salary of teachers is nothing to go crazy about. As a high school student, I have not heard any student adamantly declaring that they will become a teacher when they graduate college. In Atlanta Public Schools, the highest starting salary at the doctorate level is only $60,158. The starting salaries of of $112, 518 and $115,425 for pediatricians and surgeons, respectively, are much more appealing to valedictorians and salutatorians who want to make a good living.

The bottom line is that the U.S won’t see a stronger influx of teachers until teachers receive the appreciation they deserve. The pay is too low for the importance of the sector and the growing number of standardized tests discourages possible future teachers and limits current teachers. If Nancy Atwell, one of the finest teachers this country has, isn’t recommending students to become teachers, how can we expect things to get better?


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