Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wanted: Teachers in Kansas

No kidding! Kansas, like everywhere else has come alive to the fact that their teachers are retiring and there are no replacements on the horizon.
Superintendent Jerry Burch, who heads USD 309 Nickerson-South Hutchinson, was in Colorado last month trying his luck at a recruitment fair.

In his district, 45 percent of the teachers are eligible to retire within the next three to five years, he said.

The San Luis Obispo California Coastal Unified School District ( realized about a year and half ago that one-third of their veteran teachers were retiring in the next three to five years, and worse, because of the common policy of rejecting experienced applicants in favor of cheaper new graduates, they realized there was a looming gap in mid-career cadre. The district had plenty of novices, few mid career teachers, and disappearing veterans.

The shortage of math and science teachers is especially severe, but should not have been unexpected. I have an article I clipped from Newsweek in 1985 predicting a future severe shortage of math and science teachers in twenty years. The future is now, and America's principal response turned out to be no response.

Kansas legislators have come up with a list of suggestions for alleviating the shortage.

the development of alternative licensure programs, including Internet-based, off-campus and weekend programs; teacher preparation programs; scholarships for students pursuing teaching in math, science and special education; financial incentives to attract teachers; and promoting teaching in Kansas.

It is a typical list, but notice what this list, and most such lists, omit. The powers that be never think to attract the proven, mid-career teachers back to the classroom, by, for example, granting year-for-year credit for experience on the salary scale instead of the measly five to seven years. School insult teachers by paying teachers with fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years experience a wage corresponding to at most five years. Even so, many teachers love teaching so much they would have accepted such stingy pay. These are teachers whose only mistake was to move from one school district to another for whatever reason (often to follow a husband's job opportunities), many never realizing that their proven experience had little value next to the economic advantages of hiring novices. Schools could have had highly experienced teachers at the bargain price of just a little more than a newly minted teacher, but no. It was a shortsighted economy and now schools all over America are facing the consequences.

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