Back to School
Closing the Gap on Misinformed Media Coverage
It’s wildly diverse, and some of it is wildly inaccurate. Aside from lacking critical analysis about masks being back, the media is hyping a misunderstood “teacher shortage.” Meanwhile, some parents are taking things into their own hands. Take a look.
More Black families homeschooling
Kudos to The Today Show for telling the story about “why more parents are taking things into their own hands,” highlighting the growing number of black parents - from 3% pre-pandemic to 16% today - that are finding new ways of educating their students.
“There's a joke about homeschoolers that they are never home,” said one parent. They are out learning and stretching beyond traditional school walls. Take Engaged Detroit, which was the lifeline for families during Covid, utilizing project-based learning from groups like Rock by Rock to deliver education to families.
Meanwhile, CBS Back to School coverage started with the spurious claim that “many [students] will find there are too few teachers to greet them.”
ABC added to the hype over alleged teacher shortages.
But is it true? According to a new analysis by University of Illinois Education Professor Paul Bruno, “there is no single ‘teacher supply’ or ‘teacher labor market.’ Even schools in different parts of the same state or district may have different numbers of teachers who are interested in working in them. For example, teachers prefer working in schools with better working conditions, including colleagues and school leaders they esteem, and with more local amenities, such as nearby restaurants, coffee shops, parks, and libraries. So, the hiring situation at one school may give a misleading impression about the situation at other schools, even those that are nearby.
“Another complication is that most teachers are only willing or able to teach specific subjects or grade levels. This means a school could struggle to hire enough special education teachers even if it has little trouble filling many general education positions.”
And what about declining enrollment?
One might wonder why despite new parent pods, private school surges and charter enrollment rising, districts are still trying to hire the same number of teachers when there are fewer students in their schools. “Nineteen of 46 states declined by 3% or more and five states saw net gains from 2020 and 2022,” according to the Return to Learning tracker, and some states lost as many as five percent or more. And schools kept hiring despite losing enrollment, says Forbes contributor Mike McShane.
Then there is the question of whether there is a shortage of people qualified to teach, or a shortage of certified teachers. Some have suggested hiring veterans who have served our country. How about you? There are tens of thousands of young retired veterans - along with seniors out of the workforce - who could serve students if they were allowed to fill seats without teacher certification requirements, which has never been a proxy for quality.
Perhaps the best work is…
…by Matthew Kraft, an Associate Professor of Education and Economics at Brown University, who is providing real-time data and research on the subject in the hopes of both providing value and support for the teaching profession.
“Teacher shortages are REAL,” he argues, but they are not UNIVERSAL. e.g. they occur (sometimes acutely) in pockets - in some regions, for some schools, for some position types. The overall degree of shortages can move up or down, but it is not broadly spread or distributed equally.”
He also says that at existing wages and working conditions shortages are “within our ability to fix, that we better distribute talent by encouraging & incentivizing teachers to take up hard-to-staff subjects & move to hard-to-staff schools.” (By the way, that's an issue that unions oppose, since they back pay scales that are based on time on teaching, not differentiation of job and need.)
According to the Rand Corporation as reported by The Grade, “There is no single source for reliable current data about teacher and principal turnover or job openings, so it’s understandable that journalists rely on survey data to monitor the health of the teacher and principal workforce. The danger of relying on teachers’ and principals’ self-reported intentions to leave their jobs is that they overestimate actual turnover.” (PS Like this article below…)
From the Hechinger Report: education researchers who study the teaching profession say the threat is exaggerated. “Schools are going on pandemic hiring sprees and overstaffing may be the new problem.
“Attrition is definitely up, but it’s not a mass exodus of teachers,” said Dan Goldhaber, a labor economist at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), a nonprofit research organization.”
Grateful for all the qualified analysts and researchers actually scrutinizing the data. CBS, CNN, Washington Post… are you out there?
We love and respect great educators, especially those who taught our kids, live with us, and are in our communities. Educators who do the hard work want autonomy, performance recognized, and yes, to be paid well for a job well done. That’s not happening with the traditional contractual, uniform, top-down arrangements most teachers have. Liberate them, open up the profession to those who want to teach and have something to offer, give them freedom to do what they do best and cancel the uniform pay scales so they can be paid for their skills and responsibilities, not for their age and location.
That’s when the “shortage” will become a “surge.” Let’s work toward that! -Jeanne