September 16, 1998
Betty Ann Bowser reports on the teacher shortage.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, another back-to-school report on teachers. Last night, Betty Ann Bowser had a look at testing teachers. Tonight her subject is the teacher shortage.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
September 15, 1998:
Are standardized tests the best route to better grades?
An online forum on teacher testing.
May 28, 1998
President Clinton's plan to lower the teacher/student ratio.
September 18, 1997
House Republicans -- along with a number of Democrats -- voted to ban funding for national educational standards.
September 17, 1997
Online NewsHour Forum:two Senators debate national education standards.
September 8, 1997:
Are standardized tests the best route to better grades?
August 12, 1997:
Chicago Public Schools are taking a hard look at the current curriculum.
February 11, 1997:
President Clinton has announced his intentions to create national standards to measure the country's educational system.
February 10, 1997:
President Clinton's State of the Union Speech highlights his goals for education.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Education.
The Department of Education.
CRYSTAL McLEARY, Teacher: Whisper to your neighbor how many sides this square has.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Crystal McLeary graduated from Stanford University in June with a degree in African Studies. Now she's teaching elementary school in Oakland, California. But McLeary was not an education major. She has no teaching certificate. In fact, she has no experience as a teacher whatsoever.
CRYSTAL McLEARY: I don't want you to use the Algebra on this problem.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: That's why Oakland is running programs to teach young people like McLeary with emergency teaching credentials how to teach.
CAROLE QUAN, Superintendent, Oakland School District: This summer we have offered a number of workshops and a number of classes to prepare our young teachers for the classroom. And this is brand new people who haven't even stepped into our classroom before September, and it could very well be first and second year teachers.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Oakland has had to hire teachers with no experience or teaching credentials because it faces a critical shortage.
SPOKESMAN: Let's give a warm National Press Club welcome to Secretary Riley.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And in a major policy address yesterday Secretary of Education Richard Riley said the Oakland situation is not unique.
RICHARD RILEY, Secretary of Education: And a lot of people ask me whether we have a real teacher shortage, and I tell them we do. School districts usually find a way to put somebody in front of every classroom, and that is part of the problem. Too many school districts I'm afraid are sacrificing quality for quantity in order to meet the immediate demand of putting a warm body in front of a classroom. That is a mistake.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The problem got nation attention this summer when the New York City Board of Education had to go to Austria via satellite to interview for math teachers. These were three of the teachers who took the jobs. But when school systems can't hire qualified teachers, even by going to Austria, they are faced with hiring people who have no education background and no experience.
TEACHER: In terms of roving classrooms, what is the policy on who roves and when?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: These are all brand new teachers, yet only one of them has a teaching certificate. Like so many states, California has issued these new teachers emergency or temporary credentials. This summer they attended a crash preparation course at the University of California Berkeley Extension School. Not only did the new teachers get this kind of instruction - they also spent many hours actually working with children in the classroom. The shortage of qualified teachers has forced 42 states to issue emergency credentials. And National Education Association President Bob Chase says it's a dangerous precedent.
BOB CHASE, President, National Education Association: That's not the quality of teacher that we want in the profession. It's as simple as that. Our society all too often is willing to allow anyone to come in and teach. It'' ludicrous. It just doesn't make any sense. Would we let anybody practice law, or anyone practice medicine, or take any - anyone build a building without an architectural background?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Not only do an increasing number of teachers not have credentials, they also lack a background in the subject they teach. The Department of Education says one third of all new teachers neither majored nor minored in college in the subject they teach. Stanford University's Linda Darling Hammond, executive director of the National Commission on Teaching in America's Future, says the situation is even worse in high poverty areas.
LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND, Stanford University: In inner-city schools those proportions go way up to over 50 percent. In fields that have shortages, like mathematics and physical science, we have very high proportions of teachers who are not trained either in their field, or in teaching. And in a school that is a low-income school you have less than a 50/50 chance of getting a math or science teacher who has a degree and a license in that field and is really prepared to teach it well.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: One of the things driving teacher shortages is professional burnout.
KRISTY BLEGAN, Former Teacher: That one looks kind of interesting.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Kristy Blegan grew up in a family of teachers. Her mother, Mary Beth Blegan, is the Department of Education's teacher in residence. In 1996, Blegan went to the White House, where she was honored as the National Teacher of the Year. So it was no surprise when daughter, Kristy, graduated from high school and decided to follow in Mom's footsteps.
KRISTY BLEGAN: A lot of engineering -
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But today she's looking for a job in the private sector because in her first years of teaching she was assigned to the most disruptive, low-achieving students, got no peer support, and had no permanent classroom.
KRISTY BLEGAN: I had all of this going on, and I didn't have support at all. I did not have somebody coming to me saying you need help with this class; you need somebody in here, you know, to help you get through this, because this is way too impossible for you to handle, you know, all on your own.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: When Blegan does land a job, she is likely to double her teaching salary. Education Secretary Riley says Blegan's story is all too familiar.
SECRETARY RICHARD RILEY: Once a new teacher enters the classroom, we allow a perverse sink or swim approach to define the first years of teaching. New teachers are usually assigned the most difficult classes, in addition to all the extracurricular activities that no one else wants to supervise. Then we wonder why we lose 22 percent of our new teachers in the first three years, close to 50 percent in those urban areas.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Teacher burnout is not the only thing driving shortages of qualified teachers. The average teacher today is 50 years old. Over the next 15 years, that generation of teachers will be retiring. Meanwhile, the school-age population is booming, creating new national enrollment records. States all over the country are mandating smaller class size, creating new demands for more teachers. And because the average salary for a first-year teacher is only $25,000, schools are losing some of the best and brightest to private industry. Harvard Education economist Richard Murnane says all this means the country faces having to hire more teachers in a shorter period of time than ever before.
RICHARD MURNANE, Harvard University: This country faces an enormous problem over the next few years. There will be a need for at least 1 million new teachers over the next few years. And the question is: Where will they come from, given the relatively low status of the teaching profession, relatively poor working conditions in a great many of the nation's school districts, and the relatively low pay?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: To head off potential shortages, the New Haven Unified School District near San Francisco decided to invest in teachers more than 10 years ago. Today, the average starting salary here is $38,000. That's $13,000 above the national average.
DONNA UYEMOTO, New Haven School District: This our home page, and you'll see by going down that we are visiting the home page and we are now - we're at 56,572 hits on our home page.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: New Haven recruits like a Fortune 500 company. Donna Uyemoto is director of personnel.
DONNA UYEMOTO: It's a major recruiting tool. Our salary schedule is on here. A teacher could look up the teacher contract and find out what is covered by the contract. They can get a wealth of information. They can get minutes from the board meeting; they can get the superintendent's newsletter; they can get the newsletter from a principal.
DONNA UYEMOTO: Okay, Jennifer. I'm Donna Uyemoto. Welcome to New Haven via video interviewing.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: When perspective schoolteacher Jennifer Root from Minnesota was moving to California, she found the New Haven Web page and filled out an application online. She was fully credentialed, with four years' teaching experience. So Uyemoto wasted no time. Root was interviewed the next day.
DONNA UYEMOTO: So, Jennifer, are you ready to pack your bags and come out to California? Okay.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: New Haven is a small school district to have such sophisticated recruiting techniques - just 14,000 students. But out of its teaching force of 700 only five teachers currently lack credentials. New Haven also spends a lot of time on teacher development.
SPOKESPERSON: We will be working in here on a particular model called "concept attainment."
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What's surprising is that New Haven is one of the poorest school districts in California. Yet, New Haven's students perform above the national average on standardized tests.
SPOKESPERSON: And I was actually wondering if you guys would think it was a good idea if I sent a letter to every child's parent?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Superintendent Ruth McKenna says there is one down side to all of this.
RUTH McKENNA, Superintendent, New Haven School District: We made the choice well over 20 years ago to have one big high school that served the whole community. Our elementary schools are 900 students, but they have fully credentialied librarians, they have media centers, they have fully credentialed reading teachers, they have principals and assistant principals. They have a lot of extra resources that we're able to provide because we're not opening little schools.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Experts say if other school districts don't invest in teaching soon, the implications will be enormous.
LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND: For one thing, we're going into a knowledge economy. 50 percent of the jobs require very high levels of knowledge and skill. We're still only preparing about 20 percent of our kids for those jobs. The factory jobs that we used to have are now 10 percent of the economy, and we're still preparing most kids in that way. By the year 2020, there will only be three workers for every person on Social Security. Now, imagine if all three of those workers are not able to produce a living wage, to be productive members of society, because they've been under-educated, and, therefore, they're all the welfare side of the economy, or on the prison side of the economy, what that's going to mean for everyone.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Education Secretary Riley wants the Congress to pass legislation that would fund the hiring of at least 100,000 new teachers, but his agenda may face an uncertain future in the wake of the President's ongoing problems with the Congress.