ATLANTA — Parts of the country are suffering from a shortage of teachers as fewer college students pursue careers in education.
The pandemic didn’t help.
On the one hand, respect for our nation’s educators soared when parents watched them tackle the challenge of teaching remotely. Denise Spangler, Dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Education, says once those teachers returned to the classroom, the respect from parents faded.
“The narrative about how wonderful teachers are disappeared pretty quickly,” says Spangler.
A survey of more than 6,000 teachers in Georgia found that near half would not recommend education as a career.
Over the past several years, the University of Georgia’s College of Education has experienced a steady decline in enrollment. Spangler says there’s been a 33% drop in the number of students pursuing careers as elementary school teachers.
“Our students are hearing negative discourse about being a teacher from teachers,” says Spangler. “There’s a sense that teachers don’t have the autonomy in the classroom that they once had.”
Standardized tests are part of the issue. Teachers feel it’s not a fair way to assess their performance.
Pay is an issue in a profession that expects more of teachers than ever before.
“Teachers have become all things,” says Spangler. “Many districts don’t have the funds to have social workers and school nurses, or not enough.”
Spangler says recent increases in pay for Georgia teachers are a good sign.
“A different emphasis on assessment and accountability would help, and more professional support,” says Spangler.
The teacher shortage is a situation that could turn critical unless there are young teachers prepared to fill the gaps left by experienced educators who are worn out by the pandemic and ready to retire.