It seems like a simple solution to a complex problem: raise standards and raise pay; that is how you combat the shortage of teachers. Even though the statement is simple, it is still more challenging to do. The education system in the country is lagging many other countries, which do not have nearly the resources we have. Those countries have prioritized teaching and education, and they see the importance of educators responsible for teaching importance.
Finding quality teachers is one of the hardest parts about being a school’s principal or anyone responsible for hiring at a school. I often say that it is not hard to find people to teach in the classroom, but it is hard to find teachers for the classroom. What I mean is that there are plenty of people with college degrees looking for a job that pays better than the job they are currently working. Additionally, they are looking for a job with good benefits and some perks of periodic vacations. They would gladly take a job as a teacher in the school; the issue is they have no formal training and cannot identify a lesson objective if you wrote it on a piece of paper and highlighted it. With a four-year degree in any focus, there are schools out there that would put them in a classroom. Even I have been guilty of this. A hospital would never do that for nurses. A law office would never do that for lawyers. Hell, the police department requires training and tests before putting on a uniform, carrying a gun, and arresting someone. (I know that the police department has issues with their recruiting and venting process; however, it is harder to become a police officer than a teacher.)
Raising the standards means we increase the requirements for becoming a teacher. We must put more emphasis on the expectations to enter the teaching profession. We must make it more difficult because this will draw in the highly accomplished. One of the things I have heard from people who pursue law school, or medical school is the competitiveness to get in. The idea that only a select few get into medical school and law school is one of the draws.
Additionally, they know they must work hard because they cannot practice law without passing the bar exam and cannot practice medicine without passing the tests to receive their medical license. While you must have a teacher license to teach, some states also have alternatives to those license requirements. One major option is that you can be in school pursuing your license while also teaching simultaneously. Another alternative is that you can get an alternative license or an emergency license.
To this day, I cannot understand why raising pay is a question for people. Why are there people who suggest that teachers should not get paid more? As a principal, I have worked with budgets. There are many things on that budget that can take a backseat to teacher pay. The first item that should be accounted for in the budget after the building upkeep is the pay for teachers. I am not here to suggest what a minimum starting salary should be because I think it can vary by location. We know for our society to function at maximum capacity, teacher pay should be up there with the other important/essential professions. Teachers do not nearly get paid what they are worth nor for the amount of work they do. Those who say, “Well, they get fall break, winter break, spring break, and summer break,” I offer challenge you to spend two whole weeks teaching. Not going through the motions, but truly teaching like the great ones due. You will quickly realize those breaks are needed; honestly, they aren’t enough for those who genuinely do the work.
Here are some suggestions for raising the standard and raising the pay:
- All new teachers to the profession must complete a student residency program for a minimum of a year.
- Secondary teachers must pass the content exam before teaching in a school.
- Teaching licenses are required; no more emergency licenses.
- Minimum high school GPA, SAT, or ACT scores for entering a teaching program or GPA requirement in the first few years of college
- Teacher pay for those entering the profession who have met the above requirements is $60,000
- Raises and bonuses are based on performance and advanced degrees/certifications.
- The school budget should account for teacher salaries, benefits, and bonuses as a priority over athletic fields and supplies.
- Schools need fewer administrators
Our society will go as far as our education system will take us.