Monday, March 20, 2006

Math Monday: Where Are California's Math Teachers?

Buried in this article about the shortage of credentialed math and science teachers in California, I found some published numbers that help explain the situation:
According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the state needed 2,100 new secondary mathematics teachers for the 2003-04 school year, but the state only managed to credential 823.

That same year, the state needed 2,200 secondary science teachers and only credentialed 1,029.

Mercedes Alou-Hicks, a science teacher at Palm Desert High, said she sees the problem as a matter of supply and demand.

"The demand for people who understand math and science is very high," she said. "The supply of these people is minimal because of the complexities of the nature of education in America.

"College students in the areas of math and science will not offer their talents to the lowest bidder: education."

The American Federation of Teachers reported that the average teacher salary in California for the 2003-04 school year was $56,444 - and $35,135 for beginners. The national average was $46,597.

"Education has to become a better bidder if it is to find talent," Alou-Hicks said.
As much as I hate to say it, I can't blame mathematically-minded college graduates for not wanting to enter the classrooms of our public schools. What bright and talented young person would want such a high-stress, low-paying, low-status McJob that offers little or no merit-based career advancement and small likelyhood for owning one's own home before age forty, if at all?

Prediction: The shortage of highly-qualified math and science teachers will only worsen due to the fact that teacher salaries are not keeping pace with inflation and because of ever-increasing performance expectations (as measured by the constantly rising percentage of passing test scores required under the No Child Left Behind mandates) that translate into more hours worked with even fewer instructional/curricular decisions being in the hands of the classroom teacher as management increases its regulation and supervision of all facets of the "typical" teacher's instructional day.

Of course a significant increase in pay would help alleviate the shortage somewhat, but I really don't see that happening for teachers here in the Golden State.
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