Mythbusters: The U.S. Teacher Edition

Faye Snodgress is executive director of Kappa Delta Pi.

**On July 11-12, I had the privilege of participating in the Network of National State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) annual conference. The State Teachers of the Year became an affiliate chapter of KDP in 1990 and have been valued partners since that time, generously sharing their expertise and leadership with the KDP community. The conference provided many excellent learning opportunities, which I would like to share with you through a series of blog posts.**

Dr. Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania is a highly respected, nationally recognized researcher. His research has been cited by President Clinton in a number of speeches and published in numerous major education reports.

His latest research on the changing face of the teaching force in the U.S. dispels many commonly held beliefs about the number and diversity of U.S. educators. For example, it is frequently said that we need more diversity in the teaching force so that it reflects the diversity in the classroom. According to his finding, the number of minority teachers has increased by 104%, versus a 38% growth in white teachers, between 1987 and 2012; however, minority teachers are frequently placed in high-risk schools and lack the necessary support and freedom to use instructional practices that work best in their classroom. So, they leave the profession at a higher rate than white teachers.

We also frequently hear about the need for more STEM teachers. Ingersoll’s data revealed a high number of math and science teachers in the U.S., but again, there is a great deal of turnover among these teachers.

Indeed, the flow out of the profession has sped up over the last 10 years, with 38.9% leaving to pursue a different job and/or career after just one year in the classroom.

There hasn’t been much hiring since the financial crisis of 2008, when the average tenure of a U.S. teacher was one year. In 2011-2012, the average had grown to five years. There is a growing percentage of alternatively certified teachers being hired, but currently, the biggest group are former teachers who are returning after being away from the profession for five years or more.

One concerning finding is what Ingersoll refers to as “the ballooning” of the number of U.S. teachers. There are nearly twice as many teachers as nurses, almost 4 million, making teachers the largest work force in the country. While the number of students has grown at 19.4%, the number of teachers has increased by a staggering 46.4%.

This disproportion growth in the number of teachers raises this question: How can the country afford to pay this swelling work force? According to Dr. Ingersoll, this ‘ballooning’ is unsustainable financially.

Some of these findings were surprising to me. Do they surprise you?

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