Give teach­ers free­dom to go where they're needed

The Progress-Index - - OPINION -

Barely a month into the new aca­demic year, pub­lic school dis­tricts across the U.S. are al­ready run­ning short of a crit­i­cal as­set: teach­ers. In re­sponse, some states have low­ered the stan­dards for ob­tain­ing a teach­ing li­cense — or elim­i­nated the re­quire­ment al­to­gether. There are bet­ter ways to help sup­ply meet de­mand.

Turn­ing over class­rooms to non-cre­den­tialed, in­ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers will do stu­dents more harm than good. The goal should be to raise stan­dards, not aban­don them. Pol­icy mak­ers should fo­cus on sub­ject ar­eas where the need for qual­i­fied in­struc­tors is great­est, and on how to make it eas­ier for teach­ers to take their cre­den­tials across state lines.

It is hardly un­usual for dis­tricts to face teach­ing short­ages; ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, all 50 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia have at least some un­filled po­si­tions. Be­cause of high at­tri­tion rates, U.S. schools must hire an ad­di­tional 90,000 new teach­ers ev­ery year, but it’s not as if there’s a lack of col­lege grad­u­ates with teach­ing de­grees. The U.S. pro­duces plenty.

The prob­lem is that there aren’t enough teach­ers in places and sub­jects where they’re most needed. Un­sur­pris­ingly, schools in low-in­come, ru­ral and in­ner-city dis­tricts have the most trou­ble at­tract­ing cer­ti­fied teach­ers. Even in more af­flu­ent re­gions, there are too few can­di­dates qual­i­fied to teach in the STEM sub­jects: 48 states say they’re un­able to find enough teach­ers cer­ti­fied to teach math and 43 re­port short­ages of sci­ence teach­ers.

There are mar­ket-based ways to ad­dress the prob­lem — mainly, of­fer­ing valu­able teach­ers more money — but the dis­tricts most in need of these teach­ers are usu­ally the least able to af­ford them. So one so­lu­tion is for states to pro­vide fi­nan­cial bonuses to qual­i­fied teach­ers will­ing to move to schools where short­ages are most acute. Higher salaries in sub­jects like math, sci­ence and com­put­ing would also gal­va­nize more teach­ing can­di­dates to spe­cial­ize in STEM sub­jects and prod ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers to build ex­per­tise in those fields.

States also need to make it eas­ier for teach­ers to re­lo­cate to where the jobs are. Only six states grant full teach­ing priv­i­leges to teach­ers with out-of-state li­censes, with­out ad­di­tional course­work or ex­ams. That means teach­ers rarely cross state lines and are more likely to leave the pro­fes­sion al­to­gether when they do.

The most sen­si­ble so­lu­tion is to cre­ate a com­mon teacher-li­cens­ing sys­tem, un­der which states would agree to shared stan­dards and rec­og­nize cre­den­tials earned in other states. A bill in Congress, the In­ter­state Teach­ing Mo­bil­ity Act, would re­quire par­tic­i­pat­ing states to honor out-of-state li­censes and cre­ate a sin­gle elec­tronic ap­pli­ca­tion process for qual­i­fied teach­ers.

At­tract­ing and re­tain­ing good teach­ers is es­sen­tial to the suc­cess of any school. Giv­ing teach­ers more free­dom to move — and help­ing the mar­ket pay them what they’re worth — will help more stu­dents get the ed­u­ca­tion they de­serve.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.