Sunday, June 24, 2007

Education will have to change drastically for the 21st century

Like almost everything, the institution of education will be forced to change for the 21st century. I've been arguing for a year or more that schools must embrace information technology because it requires different skills than the work world of the 20th century. Now, the Washington Post has an article about the problem that Schools [are] Pinched In Hiring. The subtext is that Teacher Shortage Looms As Law Raises Bar and Boomer Women Retire.

The article is very good and should be read. Two things that made me think were:
To offset a shortfall of 280,000 qualified math and science teachers projected by 2015, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics advocates more competitive pay -- a controversial move away from a fixed salary structure that some teacher advocates say reflects a mentality that teaching is a second income.
I know that many of my dinosaur colleagues hate this idea, but it is a no-brainer. Math is a difficult subject to master and folks should be rewarded for their effort at university. Why would a math major want a $40k job when they could work for the government or a technology company for 50% more? Sure they may be altruistic, but someday they'll want to buy a house. Then the school loses a good teacher, as they are reaching their peak effectiveness.

The second hit home because it is where I am professionally.
About a third of new teachers leave the profession after three years. After five years, the number is closer to 50 percent, the District-based Center on Education Policy reported in 2006. Recruiting and training new teachers costs the country $7 billion a year, according to an estimate by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, also based in Washington.

Richelle Patterson of the American Federation of Teachers, a union, said high mobility is a defining characteristic of the modern workforce. Schools must find innovative ways to support new teachers "for however long they are trying to be in the system," she said.

Chang is committed for five years. "It will take that long to get the hang of this," she said.

Beyond that, she's not sure. She toys with the idea of working for another nonprofit group, the State Department or a community college.

"I like the idea of moving around," she said. "I could see myself doing a lot of other things."
Of course, this means schools will need to figure out how to deal with greater turnover than previously. Or they will have to figure out how to keep the good ones by allowing teachers to "do a lot of things."

I'm looking to leave education for the political world. CK is moving out of the classroom. gurufrisbee interviewed for a new position. A teacher shortage would be a national crisis and yet the institution of education is not prepared to deal with this kind of change.