Written by: Amy Auletto
Primary Source: Green & Write, April 5, 2017
Relative to other college graduates, teachers prefer to work close to their hometowns. One study found that teachers typically work about 13 miles away from where they attended high school as opposed to college graduates in other fields, who move about 54 miles away from where they grew up. These geographical preferences can create problems for teacher recruitment. Districts that graduate fewer individuals who go on to become teachers have a smaller pool of alumni returning to teach in the area. Even though a sufficient number of teachers are trained each year in the U.S., hard-to-staff districts, often with high portions of students of color, frequently experience teacher shortages. As a result, these districts have to allocate more resources for attracting and hiring teachers. The costs associated with bringing in a new teacher vary by district and are estimated to be anywhere from $4,000 to around $18,000 per new employee. Given the financial burden of recruiting new teachers as well as the harmful effects of teacher turnover on student learning, hard-to-staff districts have been turning to their own K-12 students as potential future teachers. By encouraging young people to consider a career in teaching, districts are increasing the likelihood that their graduates will later return to the area as teachers themselves.
Young Educators Society
The Young Educators Society of Michigan (YES) is one such program that aims to encourage young people to pursue teaching. YES was established in 1987 with the goal of generating interest in teaching among minority youth, who tend to be less interested in teaching than their White peers. Black and Hispanic students account for 31% of ACT test takers, but only 23% of aspiring teachers. YES focuses on students in grades 7-12, providing middle and high school clubs, college and university campus visits, and partnerships between K-12 districts and higher education institutions. In Michigan, there are eight participating higher education institutions: Eastern Michigan University, Lansing Community College, Macomb County Community College, Michigan State University, Saginaw Valley State University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Western Michigan University. YES also provides scholarship support and leadership development to students who are selected as YES Leadership Academy Scholars.
Further Work to Be Done
Although YES offers a promising approach to increasing interest in the teaching profession, especially among students of color, there is still more work to be done. Attention must be paid to the satisfaction of current teachers. If K-12 students observe that their teachers are unhappy and experiencing low morale, this certainly isn’t incentivizing them to become teachers themselves. Even though individual schools cannot the solve the larger issues plaguing the teaching profession, such as low salaries and deteriorating facilities, school administrators can take steps to create a supportive, respectful work environment for teachers. If teachers in hard-to-staff schools are satisfied in their careers, this will certainly have a spillover effect on their students, improving the perceived desirability of the teaching profession.
Through participation with the Young Educators Society and increased efforts to improve working conditions for teachers, hard-to-staff districts can encourage more students to say ‘YES’ to teaching and put an end to teacher shortages.
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YES holds an annual conference for students and other stakeholders. The conference focuses on issues related to urban teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention. This year’s conference will be held at Michigan State University on May 19. Individuals interested in attending can register at education.msu.edu/yes-conference.
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