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Teacher applicants not meeting state expectations

January 23, 2017

School superintendents around Michigan are reportedly less than impressed with applicants for teaching jobs recently, and it’s contributing to a teacher shortage in some subject areas across the state.

Michigan Education Association, MEA, President Steven Cook said, "a lot of the urban’s have shortages that are, you know, somewhat general in nature, but when jobs become open, it’s a 'many are called few are chosen' type of thing."

While superintendents across the state have received numerous applications, Cook said, the applicants have not been "the kind of folks they’re looking for."

MSU assistant professor and expert in education policy Sarah Reckhow said a key point in understanding the shortage is that it isn’t necessarily only a lack of people willing to pursue a career as an educator, but a lack of teachers in certain subject areas and also a lack of impressive candidates for jobs.

“If you’re well-trained in the sciences, or in engineering, or something of that nature, you might have other job options,” Reckhow said.

Susan Dalebout, assistant dean for student affairs in MSU's College of Education, said MSU secondary education majors actually earn their degree in the subject area they'd like to teach, which requires both an aptitude for and an interest in that subject area.

"For somebody who has a teaching major in chemistry, they actually earn their degree in chemistry and then also complete their teacher certification requirements in the Teacher Preparation Program," Dalebout said.

Monetary reasons might also play a factor in the decline, as those with experience in the field have warned their students that becoming a teacher might not be the best use of their skills in terms earning income. 

Special education-learning disabilities freshman Allison Murphy said her teachers have told her because teachers don’t make the most money she should pursue something in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, fields.

“I’m just sitting there like, I cant believe I’m hearing a teacher saying that, so I’m sure other kids have heard that kind of thing,” Murphy said.

Going into a STEM field, however, might be problematic for aspiring teachers, as ACT research also indicates students who are interested in education tested below the national average in STEM.

According to the report, “not only are fewer students interested in becoming educators, but those who are interested have lower-than-average achievement levels in three of the four subject areas measured by the ACT.”

The shortage, however, doesn't seem easily summarized, as a variety of factors including money, interest in the field, test scores and motivation have dwindled. 

According to ACT research, the number of young people that are interested in pursuing a career as an educator is declining.

Only 4 percent of ACT-tested graduates in Michigan plan to become educators, according to the report.

"It’s not a good time to be a teacher, it hasn’t been for a while," Cook said. "As a result of that, we’ve seen is teacher preparatory programs at universities — they’re down 50 percent. Nobody wants to be a teacher anymore, and I can’t blame them.”

While there are other options available for potential teachers, teaching offers a kind of reward that other alternatives might not, Dalebout said.

“The profession has to be attractive," Cook said. "If you’re the best and the brightest … and you’re smart, do you go somewhere where you can make starting at $85,000 a year, or do you go into teaching where you start at $40,000 a year and get your teeth kicked in on benefits and class size and everything else? You really have to feel the urge to be a teacher … and God bless them."

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