Solving the teacher shortage and more
Aug. 16, 2001
Most of America's public school teachers will be retiring before the decade is over. That is half of a story that has states and school districts anxiously scampering about. The other half is that the number of students is reaching record dimensions. Put the parts together and what you have is a teacher shortage of the first magnitude, and what that fact should elicit is a shout of hallelujah.
Hallelujah? Well, yes, because the shortage already a troublesome issue in many urban and rural districts could well force education officials to give up on the tried and disproved techniques of hiring only those with certificates, of paying the good and bad equally and of putting up with incompetence year after year.
The shortage could force changes because sticking with the status quo could leave classrooms barren of teachers. Education schools are unlikely to turn out enough certified teachers to satisfy demand. That would scarcely be a shame, seeing as how the certificates have never guaranteed quality.
The solution may be to rely more on principals who would be held with threat of penalty to high standards based on testing students for improvement. They would also be given much more flexibility in hiring and firing and they would be given the means of rewarding teachers in accordance with merit.
If certificates were no issue, principals could fill teaching slots with numerous talented and college-educated people now in other fields. If principals could pay the best teachers more nearly what they are worth, there would be a better chance of keeping teachers teaching. If principals were less restricted in their right to fire, they could get those clearly unsuited for teaching out of the classroom and replace them with teachers who are more expert in the subject matter and better equipped to impart knowledge and skills.
This non-bureaucratic approach displeases many in the education establishment, maybe because it could change the complexion of the currently malfunctioning American education system. Hallelujah.