by Clem Boyd
There is a growing teacher gap in the United States. One recent report from the Economic Policy Institute suggested that between jobs lost because of the 2007 recession and the number of teaching positions that should be added to accommodate a growing student population, the U.S. needs more than 300,000 teachers.
A less dire statistic offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that job opportunities for high school teachers in the U.S. will grow at a rate of 4% between now and 2029, comparable to the job growth for other fields. However, in this report, researchers acknowledged the difficulty of finding secondary teachers in certain disciplines.
“Many schools report that they have difficulty filling teaching positions for certain subjects, including math, science, English as a second language, and special education,” the report noted. “As a result, teachers who specialize in these subjects should have the best job prospects.”
“In the past, it wasn’t until late July, or the beginning of August, or sometimes after school started, that graduates would find jobs,” noted Sarah Gilchrist ’00, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Cedarville’s coordinator for the math education program. “Now there is such a demand, our students are finding jobs in March, April, and May for the upcoming school year. A lot of hiring still happens in July and August, but our students have already locked down positions by that point.”
Lynn Roper, Assistant Professor of Special Education, reports the same results for Cedarville grads in her discipline. “I don’t know of any special education major in the last 10 years who has not been able to get a job immediately after graduation, and typically where they want to teach,” she said.
According to career website Zippia, which analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2015, the number of students majoring in the field of education dropped dramatically from 1975 to 2015, from 21.6% of all majors to just 7.6%. For women, the drop was even more dramatic: In 1975, 32.4% majored in education; in 2015, just 10.7% of women were enrolled in an education major.
According to a report by the Learning Policy Institute, attrition for U.S. teachers is around 8% and is higher for new teachers and educators in high-poverty districts. This is compared to 3–4% in places such as Singapore or Finland.
“We were already down in numbers of teachers out there,” Gilchrist said. “But I think you’re going to see more of a crisis because of the coronavirus. The demands on teachers are so taxing; I think we will see current teachers retire earlier.”
While the number of education majors nationally has dropped and many current teachers are leaving the profession, this is a time for the School of Education to shine.
“Our numbers are up,” Roper said. “In general, the numbers are down across the country. The demands on teachers are such that people are being talked out of going into the profession. But we have more students in the pipeline.”
And it’s more than a matter of students seeing a market need. It goes to an eternal perspective, and that’s what will separate Cedarville graduates the most.
“We have good kids coming in who have a heart and desire to reach the world,” Roper said. “Because of that, 95% or more come in and know what they want to do, that they want to reach kids, they want to serve, and they want to use their career as a platform for ministry.”
Gilchrist concurred. “For our students, this is not a career choice; it’s a calling,” she said. “As things get more challenging in teaching, these students want to make it long term. It’s more than a way to make a paycheck; it’s a way to serve God and to impact thousands of students over the course of a career. That appeals to our students’ hearts.”
..........Clem Boyd is Managing Editor of Cedarville Magazine.