Who Needs Teachers?

Have you ever heard the saying "those who can, do; those who can’t, teach?" Well, what happens when those who can teach—don’t? A historic turnover in the teaching profession is just around the corner. More than a million veteran teachers are nearing retirement. America will need two million new teachers in the next decade and experts predict that half the teachers who will be in public school classrooms 10 years from now have not yet been hired!

Compounding the problem is the fact that the number of children going to school in the next decade is on the rise! By 2008, public school enrollment will exceed 54 million -- an increase of nearly 2 million children over today. In high-poverty urban and rural districts alone, more than 700,000 new teachers will be needed in the next 10 years.

And while minority students make up 33 percent of enrollment in U.S. public, the total of minority teachers reaches just 13.5 percent. In fact, 42 percent of the public schools in the United States have no minority teachers! 

Here are some of the efforts being made by the NEA to help the situation:

  • "Helping New Teachers Succeed" is an Association-wide effort to improve the success of new teachers and keep them in the profession by providing them with vital support in their first and second years of teaching. Beginning in fall 1999, state and local NEA affiliates will join with local school districts and states to create support systems that welcome newcomers to the profession and help them succeed.
  • All new teachers will be assigned a mentor who will assist novices with everything from classroom management and lesson plans to student assessments and teacher certification. New hires will also be given less challenging classes and fewer extracurricular activities to allow ample time to observe and learn from more seasoned peers.
  • In collaboration with NEA affiliates, a series of products will be developed to support this new teacher effort. These include an online resource center for new teachers and a CD-ROM specially designed to address the professional needs of beginners.
  • The Recruitment and Retention of Educators Project supports recruitment efforts in 11 NEA locals, including Clark County (Las Vegas), Nev., Phoenix, Ariz., and West Palm Beach, Fla. This project has been in place since 1997. Local members who have received NEA grants for teacher recruitment projects operate the program.
  • The "Urban Teacher Academy Project" is an effort to develop high school career academies focused on teaching. Model programs are being created in Miami, New York and Providence, R.I. The project is being developed in partnership with the Council of Great City Schools and other groups.


"Ready or Not: A National Teacher Shortage Looms." National Education Association Fact Sheet.

National Center for Education Statistics. The Baby Boom Echo Report. 1998.

American Association for Employment in Education. Teachers Supply and Demand in the U.S. 1998.

National Center for Education Statistics. Digest of Education Statistics. 1998.

Council for Exceptional Children.

By Betsy Bayha


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