Mr. Navarette takes a “hard nose” approach to teachers when he says if you don’t like it, leave the profession. He, and the public may not be aware of how many people are doing exactly as he says or never entering it in the first place. I discuss these issues, and other issues, in my recently published book: The Kids Are Smart Enough, So What’s the Problem? A Businessman’s Perspective on Educational Reform and the Teacher Crisis.
One example from my book is about John Jacobson, Dean and Professor at the Teachers College of Ball State University in Indiana. In a presentation titled, Where Have All the Teachers Gone,? Jacobson points out that the declining enrollment in teacher preparation is a national trend. And if not corrected, a teacher shortage is only the beginning of a huge workforce development.
From a separate source in my book, we find that between 2009 and 2014, the national teacher education enrollment dropped from 691,000 to 451,000 – a 35 percent reduction. This amounts to a 240,000 reduction in the graduation of professional teachers. What makes this decline even worse, is that only about 35 percent of these graduates even enter education in the first place. Once those who become teachers, many leave the profession after five years (the actual percentage, usually quoted as 50 percent, is under debate in the book).
What all this amounts to is a persistent shortfall of 112,000 teachers each year until 2025. This shortfall will lead to an explosion of unlicensed people taking over teaching jobs. Under-qualified and lack of teaching experience, those filling open teacher roles will be more satisfied with less pay.
Amount of pay is a big issue for teachers, but it is not the biggest problem. Discussed in my book, the bigger problem has to do with what actually goes on in the classroom. In about 80 percent of public classrooms in the U.S., there is a percentage of children who disrupt the classroom. These disruptions are dramatically reducing important instruction time. And finding a teacher trained and capable of managing disruptive students is very rare.
In my research, I led a school study involving four fourth grade classes in Indianapolis. These four teachers were the essential ingredient in defining the classroom problem. Here is some of their thinking:
The students in any classroom can be divided into three groups (definitions of these term are in the book):
The Disruptives (The disruptive students were 23 percent of all their students, about six students in each classroom.)
After gathering data for 44 classroom days, we find that the disruptive students create a loss of 62 minutes in each class each day; 46 minutes out of the 62 are related to discipline. (There were two more metrics: failure to follow instructions and failure to listen.) So, each and every day in this particular school each teacher can expect 46 minutes taken away from instruction time to deal with disciplinary problems.
These six students, either directly or by engaging the followers to join them, waste 28 percent of each day in each class.
This is a loss of time that no student can afford and also make the management and teaching of these classrooms more difficult for teachers. Most teachers view their job as life calling and want to change lives for the better, however, this is extremely difficult to do under such circumstances.
The bottom line is this: some parents are sending their children into our classrooms dreadfully short of social skills and values. They swear at their teachers, fight with their teachers and have no respect for anyone or anything, especially themselves. In my book, I call these needed skills, character and grit. These are skills that can be learned just like math and English. For most children, these skills are taught by their parents over many years, but for others no such luck and they enter the world dreadfully prepared to live in our society.
The good news is that more schools are starting to see the importance of a strong character skill foundation and teaching skills like character and grit in the classroom. Both Elevate Indianapolis and The Oaks Academy have made this their primary goal.
So yes, money is important but placing teachers in classrooms where they can do their job is even more important.
- Richard W. Garrett PhD