The information coming from NY high-schools is getting more and more disturbing. Indeed, schools nowadays have a lot to be concerned about: there are underfunding and underachievement issues, problems with gender-based stereotypes in STEM disciplines and numerous reports of classroom violence. Top it all, the statistics say we tend to lose almost half of teachers after their first year of schooling.
Obviously, teaching is not for everybody. Thus, minor staff turnover is acceptable. However a healthy and effective learning environment cannot be created with more than 50% of teachers gone yearly.
First-year school teachers’ salaries amount to $31,000 per year and for New York these numbers are just slightly better – $45,000. Teachers’ job is definitely rewarding but in terms of monetary remuneration it looks more like a hobby. It is not surprising that many teachers often feel the need to combine their teaching careers with something that could give them money to live on. Some earn some extra money by doing online tutoring or blogging, others choose to seek part-time job opportunities in the fields that are not related to education. The government cannot provide enough incentives to keep teachers encouraged.
Phrasing it in business terms, in order to gain profit any employer will try to keep his best and most promising workers in the company by offering them competitive salaries, investing in their professional development. What we now observe in high-school education system is a bad example of loss-making business.
Although STEM education is essential for students today, schools can hardly offer any distinct and comprehensive programs in science and mathematics. It is the result of experienced STEM teacher shortage. College graduates with degrees in STEM-related fields are in demand with high-tech companies and rarely consider school teaching as the best job opportunity for them.
So, what can be done to attract more young STEM-oriented people to classrooms? Competing with Google or Twitter trying to lure away these professionals is hardly an option. Neither can we entrust teaching to people who are concerned about money and have no interest in kids themselves.
It seems the only thing that can be done to improve the situation is government’s making sure high-school teachers earn enough money not to go in for part-time employment or give up the profession at all.
Investing in teachers’ professional training might be another great option which will help teachers to meet the challenges in the fields of STEM education. There are a number of comprehensive programs for teachers who want to raise their students’ interest in STEM. However, most of them are rather expensive and, unless subsidized by schools, teachers cannot pay for it out of their own pocket.
Well-grounded education is the guarantee of future prosperity and well-being. Teachers play the key role in making this education comprehensive. And though everybody seems to understand that, little is actually being done to attract the most talented and motivated teachers to schools.