July 11, 2006
For immediate release
The College Board has just released the powerful report Teachers and the Uncertain American Future that calls for a new compact between teachers and the country in order to foster a national passion for education and create an environment in which students enter and succeed in higher education. Dean Jane Close Conoley of the UC Santa Barbara Gevirtz Graduate School of Education served as a member of the National Advisory Panel on Teacher Recruitment – a group College Board President Gaston Caperton hailed as “some of the best minds in the field of education” – that developed the report for the College Board’s Center for Innovative Thought.
The report outlines a six-part plan. In addition to providing “salaries for the real world,” the Center calls for making teaching a preferred profession, creating multiple pathways into teaching, closing the teacher-diversity gap, addressing the math and science crisis, and creating the funds necessary to carry out these initiatives through a public–private Teachers’ Trust.
Teachers and the Uncertain American Future states, “It is hard to sugarcoat the obvious. . . . When professions are sorted by starting salaries, teaching ranks at the bottom.” Teaching is a revolving door, the group declares. “At the end of five years, almost half of all new teachers have bid the classroom goodbye,” in large part because working conditions and staff morale are so poor. The report cites estimates that the annual costs of teacher turnover are at least 50 percent of leaving teachers’ salaries.
The state of American math and science teaching is at the “crisis” stage, says the panel, with almost 30 percent of middle school students taught by unqualified biology teachers, a figure that rises to 40 percent in the physical sciences (chemistry, geology, and physics). At the high school level, between 8 and 15 percent of all students are instructed by teachers who do not hold major or minor degrees, or certification, in teaching the subject. Meanwhile, less than half of high school graduates are ready for college-level math and science. “How does a nation that has bet its future on innovation and technology tolerate this state of affairs?” asks the report.
Diversity in the teaching workforce also remains an elusive challenge. “To create a more representative teaching workforce would require…doubling the proportion of African American teachers, and tripling the proportion from Hispanic, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other backgrounds,” notes the panel.
Meanwhile, a “sterile debate” between traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs, along with cumbersome labor agreements, makes it hard to staff schools properly, the report says.
To respond to these challenges, the Center recommends a six-part plan:
Provide an immediate 15 to 20 percent hike in teachers’ salaries (and rising to 50 percent in the foreseeable future), with provisions for an 11-month contract and a differential pay system based on challenging schools, shortage disciplines, and outstanding teaching contributions.
Make teaching a “preferred profession” by improving working conditions, implementing career ladders, and creating communities of learning within schools and districts.
Encourage multiple pathways into teaching, with a cease-fire declared between proponents of traditional and alternative certification programs, which frequently take enthusiastic liberal arts graduates and put them in front of classrooms after a few weeks of training.
Close the diversity gap so that the teacher population more closely mirrors the student population. The report recommends intensive and targeted recruitment programs that emphasize financial aid and loan forgiveness for minority teachers.
Enact recent recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences to increase college enrollments in math, science, and engineering majors. Provide 10,000 merit-based scholarships in math and science fields for first-year undergraduates willing to teach for a minimum of five years, along with 25,000 undergraduate scholarships annually (and 5,000 graduate fellowships) for U.S. citizens entering science and technical programs.
Invest for success in teaching now, rather than paying for failure later, through the establishment of a public-private Teachers’ Trust that would hold federal, state, local, and private funds for salary increments.
Dean Conoley says, “Our democracy and our economic well being depend on a well prepared future generation. Teachers are a vitally important to our nation. Rhetoric, not followed by economic and political action, is an empty promise to the young people of America. This report attempts to make it clear that hard choices face us if we want our standard of living and our free society to survive.”
[Interviews with Dean Conoley are available; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789.]