Teacher Demographics are Shifting

Here’s Walt Gardner with an interesting look at the changing demographics of teachers.  Worth nothing: just over twenty years ago, a high percentage of classroom teachers had 14+ years of classroom experience.  As of three  years ago, the most common answer was 1-2 years.

As Gardner argues, that trend is likely to continue to rise as more teachers retire or exit for the private sector, creating high demand for talented and effective classroom educators:

Where these new teachers will come from and what their presence in the classroom will mean are questions that warrant a closer look.

According to the National Center for Education Information, four out of 10 new public school teachers hired since 2005 have come from alternative teacher-preparation programs. I expect to see even more teachers entering the classroom via this route. I’m not talking only about Teach for America. I’m also referring to standalone colleges such as the Relay Graduate School of Education, which is the first such school to open in New York State in nearly a century (“Ed Schools’ Pedagogical Puzzle,” The New York Times, Jul. 21, 2011).

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that new teachers from any certification route, no matter how promising, are untested. The crucible of the classroom will determine if they have what it takes to be successful. But since nearly half of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, the emphasis must be as much on retention as it is on recruitment. Unfortunately, it’s the former that has been given short shrift.

Gardner’s right, of course.  Too little attention has been paid to retention.  And in an economy that facilitates career fluidity and rapid shifts in job choices, school districts will have to grapple with not only recruiting and developing effective teachers, but keeping them for more than a couple years.

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