Saturday, December 2, 2023

Teacher Shortages, Retention, and Retirement


News reports from many areas suggest there’s a “teacher shortage,” particularly in certain subjects and among those qualified to work with special education students, reports that mirror claims of shortages in other fields, such as among nurses, mathematicians, and skilled tradespeople.

Teaching doesn’t even make the top 10 list of fields in which finding qualified workers is challenging, according to Other jobs associated with schools, such as bus drivers, are a whole other story.

The most significant factor contributing to teacher shortages is teacher attrition, according to a report by Carolyn McCreight at Texas A&M University. She says teachers leave the profession for a variety of reasons, including

  • low salaries,
  • unpreparedness for the realities of teaching (burnout),
  • rigorous certification examinations,
  • lack of career advancement opportunities,
  • low emphasis on professional development, and
  • marital status.

But analyzing this data is complicated. Regarding salary, teachers’ feelings are supported by federal data, which shows that inflation-adjusted teacher pay has been stagnant since 1990 but the inflation-adjusted cost of college has nearly doubled, from about $15,000 a year in 1990 to $29,000 in 2020.

There’s also just regular retirement.

Olivia Sobkowicz reports in the student newspaper at Notre Dame Prep in Towson, Maryland, that a science teacher, Thomas Peri, is expected to retire at the end of this school year after 20 years at NDP that followed teaching engagements at five other Catholic schools around Baltimore.

He told Olivia, a former student, that he was “deeply in love with Gym Meet,” an annual tradition at the high school. “It teaches some world-transforming life skills like collaboration, creativity, responsibility, ability to compromise, teamwork, troubleshooting, and winning and losing with grace.”

During this biology teacher’s professional career, the nation and world have changed many times. Still, teacher salaries have remained stagnant despite the increasing cost of becoming qualified to teach in US schools. Yet the memories many teachers take with them into retirement, where their plans are as diverse as they are, often include the priceless times they have shared with students and the lifelong lessons they have witnessed becoming a part of their students’ identity.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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