Short term gain, long term pain
Why is it that we keep looking for short cuts to make people become teachers? These alternative short cuts are designed to bring more men and more teachers of color into the profession. That is a noble goal. But why do these people and others need a work around to come into the profession?
First of all there is also a shortage of physicians in rural areas. I don’t see people rushing to short circuit the training program for physicians. I have not even read about med schools expanding their enrollments. But there is a different story with teachers. Somehow we think it is no big deal to be a teacher. After all didn’t we all go to school? What can be so hard? That is like saying we have all been sick so we can all be physicians.
Research is now showing that people who become teachers by these alternate routes do not stay in the profession very long. They leave at higher rates than those trained in the traditional manner and the gap is growing.
By 2007-08, teachers who entered the profession through alternative approaches were 2 ½ times more likely to leave it altogether than teachers who came in the traditional way according to a study by Vanderbilt University.
Alternative programs allow participants to teach right away after only minimal training. Usually these people skip all those boring courses on how to teach and there is little to no student teaching.
In fairness, most of these quickie trained teachers are put into schools that more typically trained teachers don’t want to be in. These are schools that are hard to staff. Why we put the least trained people into those schools is not clear. However, what is clear is that based on this study, even after adjusting for principal effectiveness, availability of materials and working conditions, these alternatively trained teachers were 83% more likely to leave the profession. The key words here are “leave the profession”. These people were not saying, we love teaching but not in these hard schools”. They were not asking for transfers to easier schools; they were gone.
The money, time and human energy that had gone into doing a half-way job of preparing people to teach could have been spent on providing training funds to help people become teachers the right way. These people are also more likely to be individuals who want to become teachers, not who just want a quick way to what they see as an easy job with good benefits. Teaching is a hard job. It is also a very skilled job. As with other jobs requiring skills, extensive training is needed. We talk about how important teaching is to our kids and our country but we do not demonstrate that importance. We take short cuts with training and think we can escape the long term pain. As with many important things in life, it is better to go with short term pain and get that long term gain. Our kids are certainly worth having properly prepared teachers.