Crisis or crock: Is there a teacher shortage?

“The teacher shortage crisis is here,” declares U.S. News, citing a new Learning Policy Institute report on the “coming” crisis.

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“We are experiencing what appears to be the first major shortage since the 1990s,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor who runs the institute.

“At a time when public school enrollment is on the upswing, large numbers of teachers are headed for retirement or leaving the profession because of dissatisfaction with working conditions,” reports U.S. News. “Meanwhile, enrollment in teacher preparation programs is dropping dramatically, falling 35 percent nationwide in the last five years.”

 For years, teacher preparation programs have been graduating twice as many teachers as are needed, writes Kate Walsh, who runs the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Over the last 30 years, programs have graduated between 175,000 and 300,000 teachers each year, yet consistently school districts have only hired somewhere between 60,000 to 140,000, with about 95,000 being the most recent number.

. . . by tweaking just one of the assumptions made by LPI, the results are altogether different. For example, if we project that the class size average of student to teacher is 16.1 to 1 (which, importantly, it is currently) rather than LPI’s estimate of 15.3 to 1, voila! The shortage disappears entirely.

Walsh also cites Dan Goldhaber’s critique of the report. LPI incorrectly assumes all new teachers are new college graduates, he writes. In fact, most newly hired teachers aren’t new graduates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Some delayed entering the profession and others taught, took time off (usually to raise kids) and are returning.

Claims of a teacher shortage crisis are deja vu all over again, writes Mike Antonucci.

The real teacher shortage isn’t new, writes Walsh.

For 30 years nearly every district in the nation has struggled to find enough secondary science and math teachers. Also and for just as long, rural and urban districts have been unable to tap into a reliable and stable source of new teachers, putting band aids like Teach For America on the problem.

Most school districts have way too many applicants for elementary teaching positions, she writes, “because teacher prep programs don’t see it as their job to tell their incoming candidates that they can’t all major in elementary ed, that they’ll need to consider another teaching field like special ed or ELL where there is real need.”

Under union pressure, school districts refuse to pay more for teachers with high-demand skills.

Arts ed is back in Boston

Boston Public Schools are strengthening arts education, reports PBS NewsHour. K-8 students now take music, theater, dance and visual art at least once a week.

Bilingual ed measure touts ‘English proficiency’

Kindergartener Maximilian Krendzelak answers teacher Marisol Alarcon at River Glen, a dual-immersion K-8 school in San Jose. Students learn primarily in Spanish in the early grades. Photo: Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group

California’s Proposition 58, which promises to “ensure all students can achieve English proficiency as soon as possible,” is leading in the polls — until voters realize it would bring back bilingual education, reports Sharon Noguchi in the San Jose Mercury News.

Sixty-nine percent of likely voters backed Proposition 58 when read the ballot title and summary, according to the online Field-IGS Poll.

When pollsters revealed that the “English proficiency multilingual education” initiative would repeal key portions of Proposition 227, which limited bilingual education, 30 percent said they’d vote yes, 51 percent were opposed and 19 percent undecided.

In 1998, Proposition 227 passed with 61 percent support at the polls. It required that English Learners be taught primarily in English, unless their parents sign waivers requesting bilingual education.

Without any context, “people see the “English proficiency” label and think that’s what the initiative supports, said Jack Citrin, director of the UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, a partner in the poll with the Field Research Corp. “When you tell them it repeals a key portion of Proposition 227, also intended to create English proficiency, they change their tune,” Citrin said.

I’m not sure how much will change if Proposition 58 passes. Bilingual ed hasn’t vanished: Dual immersion is popular, especially with middle-class English-speaking parents.

Students could be placed in bilingual classes without parental waivers, but parents are supposed to be able to get English instruction on demand.

In the pre-227 days, bilingual ed was done badly much of the time: Spanish-speaking aides taught the neediest kids (there weren’t enough bilingual teachers), the curriculum was dumbed down and expectations were low. Nobody wants to go back to that.

Cost soars for public-service loan deal

Forgiving college loans for graduates who take “public service” jobs is a bonanza for borrowers and a rapidly growing cost for taxpayers, writes Jason Delisle on Brookings’ blog.

Thirty percent of those using the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program borrowed more than $100,000 to finance graduate degrees; the median debt is $60,000.

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They’ll pay a small percentage of their income for 10 years. Then the principal and interest will be forgiven.

In addition to working for the government, public service includes employment at a “non-profit organization with a 501(c)(3) designation, or another non-profit organization that does not have 501(c)(3) status but provides emergency management, public safety, or law enforcement services; health services; education or library services; school-based services; public interest law services; early childhood education; or public services for individuals with disabilities and the elderly,”  writes Delisle. That’s a quarter of the workforce.

Graduate schools will be able to hike tuition for degrees that have little market value, he writes. Students will have no incentive to limit debt that they’ll never have to repay.

Work habits separate thrivers, divers

Why do students who did well in high school fail in college? Good work habits distinguish “thrivers” from “divers,” concludes a University of Toronto study reported in the Washington Post.

Image result for bellyflopNew college students predicted they’d earn grade-point averages of 3.6, but averaged only 2.2 at the end of their first year.  Students with similar high school records had very different college outcomes.

Researchers analyzed “thrivers,” who did much better than their high school grades predicted, and “divers,” who did much worse. Most had been average students in high school: In college, the thrivers got A’s while the divers got F’s.

Divers were short on “conscientiousness.”

Compared with the average student, divers were less likely to describe themselves as organized or detail-oriented, less likely to say that they are prepared, that they follow a schedule or that they get work done right away. Divers were also more likely to say they crammed for exams and more likely to score highly on measures of impatience.

. . . Compared with the divers, the thrivers planned to study three additional hours a week, on average.

Some “personality traits, such as agreeableness (being kind and empathetic toward others), openness to new ideas (being imaginative and curious) or emotional stability (not being anxious or easily upset), did not appear to matter much in determining whether people were thrivers or divers,” writes Jeff Guo.

Work and study habits mattered a lot.

When Mom and Dad supervise schedules, homework and bed times, and teachers enforce attendance, students may earn decent grades without learning how to manage their time. Then they go to college and they’re lost.

Do voters care about education?

Education didn’t get any attention in the first presidential debate, not even “free college.” Do voters care about education in 2016? asks AEI.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn't discuss education in their first debate.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn’t discuss education in their first debate.

Only 3 percent of people told Gallup that education is “the most important problem facing this country today,” in the September survey. The economy was the top concern.

That’s typical. Few people rate education as the “most important” issue.

However, looking at Gallup and CBS News polls, education typically ranks “in the upper one-half to one-third of national concerns.”

Who’s poor? Non-working singles

Alex Caicedo found full-time work and climbed above the poverty line last year. Photo: Justin T. Gellerson/New York Times

Millions of Americans are climbing out of poverty, reported the New York Times yesterday in a front-page story. “Poverty declined among every group,” according to Census data, with African-Americans and Hispanics making the greatest gains.

Over all, 2.9 million more jobs were created from 2014 to 2015, helping millions of unemployed people cross over into the ranks of regular wage earners. Many part-time workers increased the number of hours on the job. Wages, adjusted for inflation, climbed.

The number of employed adults per household explains much of income inequality, writes Mark Perry on Carpe Diem. The Census report, Income and Poverty in the United States, also shows the importance of marriage and education.

There are more than two full-time earners in the average top-quintile household compared to .43 for the lowest quintile in income.

While 62 percent of bottom quintile households had no earners in 2015, that was true for only 3.7 percent of top-quintile homes.

Require welfare recipients to work reduces poverty and improves lives, writes AEI’s Lawrence Mead.

A major cause of poverty is simply that few poor adults, both men and women, work regularly. The welfare reform of the late 1990s caused millions of welfare mothers to leave welfare for work, reducing the rolls by two-thirds and making most of the leavers better off. As work levels among poor mothers soared, poverty among children and minorities plunged to the lowest levels in history.

Work requirements should be extended to food stamps and housing subsidies, he argues. “We should also develop work programs for poor men in connection with child support and criminal justice.

Clinton and Trump on education


Education Week’s graphics summarize where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on education.

Rick Hess thinks President Trump would be Barack Obama’s “spiritual heir.” And not in a good way.

Trump’s bossiness “would be entirely consistent with the Obama administration’s ‘pen and phone’ approach to teacher evaluation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers, school discipline, campus sexual assault, supplement-not-supplant, and much else.”

College prep does little to boost outcomes

Taking advanced classes in high school does little to prepare students for college success, write Gregory Ferenstein and Brad Hershbein on Brookings’ Chalkboard blog.

In 2009, a federal review found “low evidence” that increasing the rigor of college-prep courses and adding Advanced Placement options produce better college outcomes, they write.

Relationship between college grades (first course) and high school course-taking

Relationship between college grades (first course) and high school course-taking

Their research looked at college grades for students who’d taken the same course in high school compared to those trying that subject for the first time. In physics, psychology, economics and sociology, the differences were “trivially small.” 

However, students who’d taken calculus in high school did modestly better in college calculus.

It’s likely high school students “often learn the wrong things, do not sufficiently focus on the critical thinking commonly needed in college, or simply forget much of what they learned,” they speculate.

They suggest schools “experiment with innovative and experimental courses” such as “non-cognitive skill development and technical education.”

Freshman year for free: Don’t show up

“Free college” is already here, for students who can handle online learning. Modern States Education Alliance‘s Freshman Year for Free kicked off this fall: Students can earn a year of no-cost college credit via edX classes.

With funding from philanthropist Steven B. Klinsky, Modern States has given edX the money to develop more than 30 entry-level college courses, taught by “some of the world’s leading universities and professors,” according to the New York-based nonprofit.

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In addition to online lectures, each course includes quizzes and tests. Textbooks and other learning materials will be provided online at no charge.

Courses will prepare students to pass Advanced Placement or College Level Examination Program” (CLEP) tests offered by the College Board. Courses include Sociology, Chemistry, Macroeconomics, Marketing, Business Law and more.

The Texas State University System is encouraging nontraditional (adult) students to skip freshman year by using the edX classes, reports the Texas Trib.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) tend to have very low completion rates, especially for less-educated students. However, that’s partly due to the uncertain payoff: Those who stick with the course typically don’t earn credit.