All across America school districts continue to have difficulty finding qualified teacher applicants. The primary challenge comes from the waves of educators reaching their fifties and sixties, veterans who are choosing to retire in greater numbers every year. Just as those established teachers are retiring, more young teachers are reportedly becoming disenchanted with the profession early on in their careers. Those who become disillusioned generally leave teaching in just a few years creating a void for schools.
Teacher shortages do not exist in all curriculum areas nor are the shortfalls spread evenly across all grade levels, kindergarten through twelfth grade. Each year, colleges and universities turn out numerous elementary teacher candidates, many highly qualified and trained in the latest teaching methodologies and exposed to current theories regarding curriculum and assessment design. Superintendent’s report that elementary teacher opening within a larger school district will still draw 50 qualified applicants.
At the middle and high school levels, more than enough qualified candidates in social studies or English graduate each year to fill school district openings in those subject areas. In addition, schools of higher education still turn out numerous physical education majors who compete for just a few K-12 openings each year.
The major teacher shortage areas have been well-documented. Superintendents report that math and science openings in a school district seldom garner anymore than a few applicants. Even more problematic for schools, many of those applying lacking full certification in that subject area. When a foreign language, guidance or special education opening is posted, school districts may fail to get even one certified applicant, with the shortage occurring almost equally from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Whereas the subject and grade specific shortages have been clearly documented, another development has seen far less
publicity. The shortage, neither subject nor grade specific, is the decreasing number of men in the teaching profession.
According to the “Status of the American School Teacher” released by the National Education Association in 2003, the percentage of males in public school teaching positions has been diminishing steadily since 1971. At the time, females made up 66% of the public school teacher population. Over the next ten years, the percentage of females moved up, but only to 67 percent. Since 1981, the increase in female teachers has been very significant. In 1991 the percentage of females stood at 72%, then the figure climbed another 7 points to bring the percentage of the female teaching force nationally to 79% as of 2001.
Of particular concern to school officials, at the same time that the number of male teachers is decreasing, is the latest educational information regarding the diminishing academic performance for male students. All across our country, it is now the norm for girls to out perform boys on academic tests, even in math and science, two areas that boys used to show greater strengths. In addition, a great deal of data has been released in recent years pointing to fewer males on school honor rolls, in school top ten lists, and as class valedictorians.
The vanishing male teacher coming at the same time that the academic performance of male students is definitively lagging has educators nervous. Research has shown that there is clearly a documented need for children to be exposed to positive role models consistent with their racial origins and their culture, the need for African-American children to have African-American teachers, for Hispanic children to have Hispanic teachers, etc. The need for schools to provide male teachers for male children is seen to be vitally important. Educators indicate that with so many women having to raise children on their own today, it may just be as important for children to have a male teacher as to have one of similar race. School officials hope that the rapidly diminishing number of males in the teaching profession will receive as much attention as the shortage of qualified math, science, foreign language, and special education teachers available for schools.