Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Trends in Teaching?

The National Education Association, in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, issued a statement Monday highlighting five trends the association says paint a picture of today's U.S. public school teachers. Those trends are:

Trend #1: America’s public school teachers are facing massive layoffs.

What I Found: A recent survey by the American Association of School Administrators reported that 9 of 10 superintendents expected to lay off school workers for the fall, a number that's up from two of three superintendents last year. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimates the number of jobs likely to be lost at the end of this school year at 100,000 to 300,000.

Trend #2: America’s public school teachers are the most educated, most experienced ever.

What I Found: According to the latest figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about 53 percent of teachers have at least 10 years of full-time teaching experience, and 52 percent of teachers hold at least a master’s degree.

Trend #3: Public school teachers’ classes, workloads and hours are increasing while their pay is not keeping up with inflation.

What I Found: According to NCES figures, the number of public school teachers rose by 12 percent between 1999 and 2009, resulting in a decline in the pupil/teacher ratio from 16.1 pupils per teacher in 1999 to 15.3 pupils per teacher in 2009. The average salary for public school teachers was
$53,910 in 2008–09 ($53,168 in 2007–08 dollars). After adjustment for inflation, teachers’ salaries were 8 percent higher in 2008–09 than they were in 1970–71.

Trend #4: Public school teachers come to the profession, and remain dedicated to their careers, for their students and the importance of education.

What I Found: About 8 percent of the more than 3 million public school teachers in the United States leave the profession every year, and another 8 percent move to a different school. Overall, about 25 percent of teachers leave within the first 5 years; 50 percent leave within 10 years.

Trend #5: The teaching corps in public schools does not reflect the diversity of the student population.

What I Found: In 2007–08, according to the NCES, the teaching force in public elementary and secondary schools was 76 percent female, 83 percent white, 7 percent black, and 7 percent Hispanic. The student population was 56 percent white, 21 percent Hispanic, and 17 percent black.

All in all, these figures paint a bleak picture for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week 2010. It appears that there are many challenges to face and many problems to solve in the year (and years) ahead -- and few resources to apply to finding those solutions. Of course, as my father used to say, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." And even true figures often can paint a broad picture that fails to represent specific circumstances. How many of these trends are evident where you teach? What is the state of teaching in your school today?

Education World just completed a survey in which we queried educators about the climate in their school. We'll let you know soon what they said.