I live in a really good (read: high taxes) school district. We’ve lived here for 7 years, and specifically bought the house we are in now to be in this school district. It came at a premium, but we were willing to pay it to be in a good school district.
I have several friends who are teachers. They live in this good school district, but teach in other school districts. Why? Because getting a job in this district is extremely difficult. So, they commute and pray for openings here.
Which brings me to this article from the New York Times:
GREENSBORO, N.C. — The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.
Hmmm, what’s the problem? My friends are desperate for jobs close to home. Other school districts are desperate for teachers. How can we solve this problem?
Well, first, let’s identify the problem. Is it a shortage of people who can teach? I could teach. Granted, I’m not a certified public school teacher, but I’ve taught at a university. It always boggles my mind that while I’m not qualified to teach government to a bunch of 10th graders, I’m qualified to teach the same subject on a much more advanced level to college seniors.
So, perhaps lack of certified teachers is the problem. But, with programs like Teach for America and emergency certification programs, I think finding people who meet the criteria isn’t the problem either.
Upon reading further in the story (2nd paragraph–I do do complete research before pushing post), we find this:
Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years.
Ah-ha. We need more math and science teachers.
At the university I attended, in order to get a degree in math education you had to take a bunch of education classes and a whole lot of high level math classes. Lots and lots of advanced calculus and other things that I don’t know about because I majored in something much more squishy (political science).
Why? Why is that in the job description for a math teacher? Most schools (that I am aware of) offer calculus, but don’t require it. In fact, here are the math requirements from North Carolina (the state with bad teacher shortage mentioned above). For people on a “university prep” path, Algebra II and one “higher level” math class or “integrated math” levels 1-3 are required. For other paths, the math requirements are even lower.
But, here is the University of North Carolina’s requirement to get a degree in Mathematics Education to teach high school.
Math 231 Calculus
Math 232 Calculus II
Math 233 Calculus III
Math 381 Discrete Mathematics
Math 383 Linear Algebra with Differential Equations
Math 551 Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometries
Math 416 Matrix Algebra
Math 515 History of Math
Math 533 Number Theory
Why? If the vast majority of your students aren’t going to be taking calculus (let alone, calculus II and calculus III and Matrix Algebra) why require that for your certification?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to require things that the teacher will actually use on the job? Why not, if you have 4 math teachers in the high school, require only one to have all the fancy higher level math skills. The rest of your teachers need to be qualified to teach “integrated math” and alegbra I.
Kind of opens up your field of available teachers, doesn’t it? Someone that might be a great algebra teacher just may switch her major if she doesn’t have to take so many years of higher level mathemetics that she will most likely never use.
And now for our general HR application–job descriptions. Are we writing job descriptions to make them sound more impressive then they really are? (10 years of experience, MBA, required.) Is it really?
You really need to think about what is necessary to do THIS job. Not, boy, I really like people from Harvard! It’s fine if you want to hire people from Harvard, but is it a requirement?
Making high level requirements that don’t truly fit the job can result in getting applicants who are barely qualified on paper and tremendously overqualified in practice. They are then bored and that increases your turnover.
Make sure your list of requirements are truly requirements. Then you can add your nice to haves (7 years experience, bachelor’s degree in business, social sciences or similar. MBA preferred).