Where Have All The Teachers Gone? It’s not just CS!

April 13, 2015 at 8:24 am 22 comments

My first thought when seeing this article was, “Well, I’m glad it’s not just CS.”  (See my post about how recruiting teachers is our biggest challenge in CS10K.) And my second thought was, “WHERE are we going to get all the teachers we need, across subjects?!?”  And how are we going to retain them?

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.

“The erosion is steady. That’s a steady downward line on a graph. And there’s no sign that it’s being turned around,” says Bill McDiarmid, the dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education.

Why have the numbers fallen so far, so fast?

McDiarmid 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.

via Where Have All The Teachers Gone? : NPR Ed : NPR.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , .

STEM as the Goal. STEAM as a Pathway. Is Computing Just for Men? Where are the women in the enrollment surge?

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dennisfrailey  |  April 13, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Consider the options available to the bright young college graduate. Teaching at the K-12 level is one of the lowest paying, highest stress, least respected and most politicized career options. The options look the same to the entering college freshman, so who wants to go into an elementary education major? Kids aren’t stupid.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  April 13, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Sure, kids aren’t stupid. I’m glad that we’re all in agreement that teachers are not well-respected nor well-rewarded today. It’s ironic that this post came out today when the lead article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this morning indicated that the Georgia legislature again denied raises to the faculty in the University System of Georgia. Our last raise was January 2008.

      I hope that we’re also all in agreement that we need teachers. For us specifically, we need high-quality high school CS teachers to address issues of unequal access to computing education. Any ideas where we can get them?

  • 3. blairmacintyre  |  April 13, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Agreed, Dennis. Aside from all the politics around testing, local control, unions, tenure and so on, even the folks who are pretending to support teachers are doing what they can to drive smart, energetic kids away. My favorite: during one of the “debates” over teacher pay a few years back (here in Atlanta) a politician said “teachers shouldn’t get paid well because we don’t want teachers who are doing it for the money, we want teachers who are doing it for the love of teaching.”

    • 4. gflint  |  April 14, 2015 at 10:24 am

      I love it. Doctors should not get paid well, doctors should practice for the love of helping people.

      • 5. Ken Bauer  |  May 14, 2015 at 4:42 pm

        and politicians, they should do it for the love of being a public servant.

  • 6. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 13, 2015 at 9:44 am

    I think the perceived lack of respect plays a big part. I’ve had many conversations with people who have never taught but insist they could do a better job than those who do. They conflate the ability to practice a particular discipline with the ability to teach others how to practice that same discipline. There’s a particular irony that they are so confident in their domain-specific abilities that they don’t recognize that teaching itself requires domain-specific abilities.

    • 7. Guy Haas  |  April 14, 2015 at 10:57 am

      Anytime you hear this, you should encourage/challenge them to try. Get them to volunteer to help at a local school or library. What a wake-up call it will be for them. Although I never thought I could do a better job, I thought that I could help the existing tech teachers at a local middle school (at their request). This was back in 1996 or 1997. It was quite a humbling experience.

      • 8. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 15, 2015 at 9:52 am

        I do, but it’s generally pointless. These conversations generally arise because the technologist wants to strike a pose of superiority and general awesomeness. Two examples to illustrate this: 1) The person I was talking with responded by saying he didn’t need to try teaching because he used to be a tutor and teaching was just tutoring multiple people at the same time. (And parallel computing is just programming multiple systems at the same time, right? Nothing hard about that…) 2) Another person really just wanted to complain that we weren’t teaching the “right” things. Every CS graduate should be an expert in agile methods, OOP, and the latest Javascript framework, and they should require no training whatsoever. Any program that fails this requirement is made up of out-of-touch academics who don’t want their students to succeed in industry.

    • 9. dennisfrailey  |  April 14, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      I once had a boss (in industry) who felt this way. I was team-teaching a three-day-long internal course with a colleague and the boss believed that we should need only one person to handle the load. Note that we had extensive exercises requiring a lot of hands on help. So we invited her to be a guest lecture for the first (and easiest) day of the three-day course. The scheduled called for breaks every hour. After the third hour she sat down, exhausted, and asked how we could handle this. From that point on she never complained about needing two instructors to teach the course.

  • 10. alfredtwo  |  April 13, 2015 at 10:12 am

    The lack of respect teachers get by way of the media has to have some impact on future teachers. And it is particularly not easy in public schools in poor areas. Teachers get the blame for student’s doing poorly when they environment, about which teachers have no control, is completely against them. It is not the teacher’s fault that the students come to school hungry, tired and stressed from their home life. Yet politicians want to judge teachers on how well students perform on meaningless and useless tests.

    When I last worked in industry an HR person told me that their job was to try to remove stress about things outside of work, like healthcare and income, so that employees could focus on work. For teachers today it seems to be much about adding to teacher stress in their daily lives by cutting healthcaree, cutting retirement, cutting free time and adding more non teaching work. Why would someone take that on when they are just starting out?

    Me? I’m just crazy. 🙂

    • 11. Mark Guzdial  |  April 13, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      And your kind of crazy is appreciated, Alfred!

      • 12. Ken Bauer  |  May 14, 2015 at 4:43 pm

        I’m in the crazy club too Alfred and Mark. There just aren’t enough crazy people to go around, we need ways to get good teachers that aren’t crazy.

  • 13. dennisfrailey  |  April 13, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    There’s an old bromide about plumbers, to the effect that the society that doesn’t respect plumbers will end up with bad plumbing. It seems as though the US is going that way with its educators. It’s bad enough at the K-12 level but I’ve encountered a number of people who express disparaging views about college level faculty members – they live cushy lives in tenured jobs where they can’t be fired except for gross incompetence, they get paid too much for what they’re worth, too many of them teach subjects that are frivolous, etc. Rather than simply dismissing these views as uninformed, I think we have to consider both sides of the issue. There is some truth to some of these accusations. Having worked in both academic and industry jobs, I can see where some of this is coming from. I thought my university job was tough but when I worked in industry I soon learned that life can be a lot tougher.

    There’s another factor that should be part of the equation. Productivity increases are essential to economic growth. If we don’t improve productivity in education we will end up with a situation where the cost of education is prohibitive and it will become a luxury. We can see this happening today at all levels – private and charter schools for K-12 (for those who can afford them) and growing financial hurdles at the college level. There are, of course, numerous opinions about how to accomplish productivity improvements in education, but we must accept this as a goal and engage on a conversation about it or we will price education out of the market and end up with a social disaster. Note that productivity improvements can come in many forms – they don’t mean everyone must work longer hours. But they do mean willingness to change how we accomplish our mission. I went through “business process re-engineering” exercises numerous times while in industry and they often produced significant improvements in productivity while making our jobs more interesting (because often the improvements come by reducing or eliminating the most boring and repetitive parts of the job).

    • 14. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Why must we increase “productivity” in education? The cost of providing education (even at the public universities) has not gone up significantly over the past 30 years (the price has, but that is due to shifting who pays, not due to cost increases). Are you saying that education has become less valuable, so we must produce it more cheaply?

      • 15. Mark Guzdial  |  April 13, 2015 at 9:18 pm

        I was wondering the same question. Is health care more “productive”? It certainly costs more. Doesn’t it still take the same time to heal? “If you really get on it, you can get rid of a cold in 12-14 days. If you don’t get on it, it might take up to two weeks.”

        If learning and healing are both based on human biological processes, why would we expect the industries that support those processes to become more productive?

        • 16. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 14, 2015 at 11:02 am

          Health care is a poor analogy here, as it is very clear from other countries (like Canada and most of Europe) that one can provide as good or better health care at far lower cost than in the US. The problem there is not that the care itself is expensive, but they we’ve built a huge profit-making machine (the hospital and insurance industries) around the core service, and this machine soaks up the majority of the money spent on health care while contributing very little to the care. (Some would argue that the American health insurance industry lowers the standard of care.)

          Although there are some “colleges” in the US doing the same sort of profit skimming, higher education in the US has been much more efficient than health care in the US.

      • 17. dennisfrailey  |  April 14, 2015 at 8:38 pm

        The cost of providing education has indeed gone up significantly over the past 30 years. It’s easier to tell this when you look at the costs of private schools, where reductions in state education budgets aren’t a factor. The main driver of the cost increase is the cost of labor, because education (as we are accustomed to providing it) is labor intensive and the improvements in education over the past 50 years or so have often required more people on the staff (for one example, consider the many services to support disabled students). There’s plenty of data to show this, and I accept that much of that growth has been in non-teaching staff, a subject that deserves discussion but takes us a bit off topic. Rather than discuss the reasons for the increased cost, I’d rather talk about productivity.

        My initial reaction to suggestions about improving productivity was similar to some of those I’ve seen in this blog, namely to think of all sorts of reasons why it didn’t seem to apply to my job, which at the time was doing research on computer architecture. But that was back in the 1980’s when the executives at the company I worked for held employee seminars to explain productivity and other economic issues. Not being comfortable with what I heard and not wanting to accept only one point of view, I examined the subject on my own, including taking courses in economics, and grew to realize that productivity is, indeed, critical to long term survival of almost any institution even though it implied that I would have to change many of the ways I thought about my job and my career. Indeed, the way we did research in 2010 was a lot different and more productive than the way we did it in 1980.

        Productivity has nothing to do with doing things “more cheaply”. It has everything to do with doing things “more efficiently” by taking advantage of improvements in technology and know-how. This can mean a better product at the same cost or a similar product at a lower cost, or some combination of these. Consider a cell phone vs a land line phone. Most people would accept that the cell phone is a better overall product for most people most of the time, despite the fact that land line phones have better sound and are more reliable in the event of certain kinds of emergencies. In a similar way, most people would select a 2015 model car over a 1935 model car for day-to-day use, despite the fact that the 1935 model might look a lot more classic. These examples illustrate what happens when productivity occurs: you do things differently, worse in some respects but better in most important respects.

        Simple economics tells us that productivity is what drives economic growth and, thus, the financial well being of a country. And there are productivity increases in all fields, including education, all the time. Consider the use of computers and projectors to replace handwriting on blackboards. We produce more legible materials that students can take home with them without getting writer’s cramp, and that professors don’t need to write out each time they teach a class. Many of the productivity improvements we’ve encountered in education have required relatively little change in our teaching methods, so we don’t notice them much even though we change a little in order to take advantage of them (although resistance to change happens a lot — I know of a professor who, when presented with an overhead projector in the 1980’s, proceeded to project pages of his textbook on the screen so he wouldn’t have to write on the blackboard and, a decade later, copied pages of his textbook to PowerPoint so he could show them using a computer).

        When I see what today’s students get in the way of amenities at school compared with what I had when I went to school, it is clear that the education experience today is a lot richer. I’m not saying it provides a better or a worse education, only that the student’s experience is much richer. However the cost has also gone up because those enhancements (nicer dorms, free internet, exercise facilities, substantially better support for students with disabilities, much better equipped laboratories and classrooms, and on and on) have not been accompanied by enough of the kinds of productivity improvements that reduce cost (and, ultimately, price).

        Medicine was brought up, and medicine has actually had greater productivity improvements than education over the past several decades, if you look at BLS data. Here’s one simple example: laparoscopic techniques for many surgeries have dramatically reduced the cost, the recovery time, the level of pain, and the level of post-surgical problems. So why have overall medical costs continued to rise? One major factor is that we keep finding new ways to treat diseases that, in the past, we could not treat at all or could not treat as effectively. In other words, there is no upper limit to what people are willing to spend on medical services. (Imagine what people would be willing to pay if someone invented a medical procedure or medication that could prolong lives by 50 years!) We can debate the merits of many so-called improvements that seem to offer little actual benefit – that’s a characteristic of a free market economy – but few physicians or patients would want to return to the tools and medications and methods of the 1930’s.

        In another post there was mention of education being hard to change because people haven’t changed, biologically speaking. But I contend, based on successful education programs I’ve experience in both industry and the academic world, that this is not a reason to eschew productivity improvements. Consider how students communicate with each other these days – they use smart phones and various services that never existed when I was in school. They take notes on their laptop computers rather than in handwritten notebooks. They often read papers on the web rather than in paper form. Libraries are quickly becoming places for electronic media rather than paper copies of things. The IEEE now publishes most of its journals only in electronic form. We can debate the merits of distance education (as people once debated the merits of night school), but there can be no doubt that it enables many people to get an education who could not have otherwise obtained one.

        The human being is remarkably adaptable, especially when young. It tends to be the older and more established institutions and individuals who resist change because they have developed effective ways of living their lives and doing their work and change causes discomfort and disruption. That’s where we faculty members come in. We have met the enemy and it is us (to paraphrase Pogo / Walt Kelly).

        Here’s another way to look at it. If we don’t improve education productivity we’ll make ourselves unaffordable. Here’s my evidence. In 1913, when the BLS first started keeping track of family budgets in the US, the cost of education was such a small portion that they didn’t even start tracking it until the 1960’s. But now it’s one of the top 20 items. Back in 1913, food and shelter were the big expenses in proportion to the total family budget, and almost any function that was done by people was relatively cheap. 100 years later, many costs have dropped significantly, especially manufactured goods. Food has gone down, despite the fact that we dine out much more often and the quality of what we eat has improved remarkably. Shelter has remained fairly steady, but the quality of our homes has improved dramatically – we have indoor plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, cable TV, and many other things unheard of back then. In the 1950’s the average house had one bathroom. Today it’s about 2. But the costs that are growing as a percent of the total family budget are things that are – you guessed it – labor intensive, including government, education, medicine, and so forth. It doesn’t take much of a projection to see that things will have to change or people simply will not be able to afford these things, or at least not as much as they get today. (The projected cost of Medicare will bankrupt the US if we don’t figure out how to control it.)

        We are already seeing various attempts to lower the cost of education by utilizing more technology and less human labor. Much of what we’ve seen so far has been of poorer quality, but remember that in the early days of automobiles the quality was dismal and many people thought it better to use a horse and buggy. Betting the future on the buggy industry would not have been a prudent approach, despite the fact that horses and buggies had been highly successful for hundreds of years.

        We can debate the reasons why the price of education has risen so steadily and so seriously, but perhaps we should focus on the fundamental problem – we need to re-engineer how we educate. we can be part of the problem or part of the solution.

        • 18. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 15, 2015 at 7:01 am

          I disagree with you that the cost of public education has gone up all that much. The price certainly has, and private education has gone up in cost (largely because people are paying for it as a luxury good, and so high price is advantageous for marketing).

          See https://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/cost-of-college-remarkably-stable/ for more info about cost of college (as opposed to price of college)

            • 20. dennisfrailey  |  May 14, 2015 at 7:55 pm

              I read both of these articles, and could get into a long discussion about how many other factors enter into the picture. For example, increasing enrollments themselves would have contributed to a lower cost per student, except that increasing labor costs have tended to offset that. But rather than get into a big debate about that, which would require a lot of data that is very hard to get, I prefer to look at a longer term picture. Virtually every labor intensive field sooner or later becomes replaced or augmented by technology or else becomes too expensive for most people to afford what they once could afford. We watch shows like Downton Abbey and notice how many servants they had back then. But servants back then made the equivalent of a few thousand dollars a year (in today’s dollars). Middle class people today cannot afford so many servants because anyone willing to do a servant’s job would not do it for such little pay. Instead we have replaced most servants with machines, and they have many advantages – less expensive and they don’t gossip about what they overhear going on in the house. In more modern times, day care with a working mother is gradually replacing the stay at home mother model. We can argue the merits and drawbacks of this, but it is a more productive model so it will continue, or be replaced by something even more efficient.

              There is no way that education can continue in the way we do it today. It may take a few generations, but it has to become more productive. Several hundred years ago people used private tutors for much of their education, but few can afford that any more. Average college class sizes have grown, especially at state supported colleges, and one way or another we will have to deal with these facts.

              • 21. Mark Guzdial  |  May 14, 2015 at 9:05 pm

                Sort of like this argument?

                Education is the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage. But the economic depression may here work beneficially, in that it may force the consideration of efficiency and the need for laborsaving devices in education. Education is a large-scale industry; it should use quantity production methods…There may well be an “industrial revolution” in education. The ultimate results should be highly beneficial. Perhaps only by such means can universal education be made effective.

                • 22. dennisfrailey  |  May 14, 2015 at 10:11 pm

                  My argument is macro-economic and based on long term trends that can readily be seen if you look at a long enough period of history. The argument you bring up is similar, but is based on near term forces (“the economic depression”). It is probably true that the long term effect occurs via a series of short term situations that force people to change. For example, WWII forced women to work outside the home and, in the long term, that took hold and became the norm. So too an immediate economic need might serve as the tipping point for change in education. Change seldom happens smoothly.

                  Perhaps I’m also influenced by the fact that I’ve spent a long career in the field of computing and have seen how much change has resulted from this fantastic technology. And, now that I think about it, relatively smoothly. (As I look at my five obsolete personal computers, all of which cost more than my current one and each of which had substantially less capability than its successor.)

                  By the way, some day I’d like to participate in a panel session or debate on subjects like this where there are differing opinions.



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