09.07.99

Schumer Says City, State, Nation Face Crisis in Finding Qualified Teachers

New Survey Numbers Show 1/3 of all New York City, 1/4 of All New York State Teachers Lack CertificationSchumer to Unveil 'Marshall Plan for Teachers' to Recruit and Retain Professionals to Teaching

New York New York students return to class this week as area schools struggle to fill classrooms with qualified teachers, a situation which is more severe in New York City, but worsening in the remaining 57 counties in the state, Senator Charles Schumer announced today at a press conference at PS 234 in Manhattan.

Calling the quality of public school education in New York and America "the greatest threat to our future," Senator Charles Schumer (DNY) unveiled a comprehensive plan today to revamp the teaching profession. Schumer, who was joined by Arthur Levine, President of Teachers College at Columbia University and three New York City teachers, unveiled his Marshall Plan for Teachers as New York State and America gird for a teaching shortage which could reach 2 million nationwide within ten years. The problem is particularly acute in New York City and other cities throughout the country where low starting pay and tough teaching conditions make recruitment difficult.

"There is a national crisis in teaching that is being felt first in our cities, but is spreading throughout the country. We are like the canary in coal mine. The problems in the City system presage problems everywhere," said Schumer.

"We can find warm bodies to stand in front of the classroom, but there is a paucity of certified, qualified instructors who can ably teach our children," said Schumer. "This is occurring just as the world is entering the information age where ideas and knowledge are the harbingers of success. At this critical juncture, we have to make teaching an exalted profession in the 21 st  century the way the professions of law and medicine were in the 20 th  century."   Teachers Lack Certification

The survey revealed that in the New York City public schools:

 

  1. 40,000 teaching positions need to be filled over the next four years.
  2. Fewer teachers are fully certified in NYC schools than in schools in the remaining 57 counties in the state;
  3. More than onethird of NYC teachers lack full certification compared to slightly less than onefifth statewide (33% of NYC teachers are not fully certified compared to 19% in the rest of the state);
  4. Community District 1 (77%) and Community District 5 (56%) have the best and worst certified teacher levels in Manhattan.
  5. Community District 11 (69%) and Community District 7 (55%) have the best and worst certified teacher levels in The Bronx.
  6. Community Districts 16, 20, and 21 (72%) and Community Districts 13 and 23 (59%) have the best and worst certified teacher levels in Brooklyn.
  7. Community District 26 (84%) and Community Districts 24 and 30 (69%) have the best and worst certified teacher levels in Queens.
  8. Staten Island's lone community district schools have 82% of its teachers fully certified.
  9. Salaries for first year teachers in New York City schools have declined by $6,764 from $36,375 to $29,611 in inflation adjusted dollars between 1990 and 1997;
  10. The City public schools employ 17,000 teachers at least 55 years of age but only 12,300 teachers age 32 or younger.

In other cities in New York State:

 

  1. In Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Nassau, Westchester and Suffolk roughly one in five teachers are not fully certified.
  2. In Syracuse one in four teachers are not fully certified.
  3. In Rochester more than one in three teachers are not fully certified.
  4. Statewide only 75% of math and English teachers, 64% of ESL teachers and 42% of bilingual education teachers are fully certified.
  5. Nationwide, 37% of all   new  teacher hires lacked full certification.

Schumer predicted that the crisis will get worse as we move into the 21 st  century and the kinds of people who became teachers in the past choose different professions now. Many of today's most senior teachers chose the teaching profession in the 1940s and 1950s because they were seeking stable employment following the Great Depression. Many male teachers in their 50s today opted to become teachers as a way to avoid the Vietnam draft. And for women, greater career opportunities have diminished the quality of teaching in the public schools.

"A woman who chose teaching 25 years ago because of limited career options is more likely to choose the law, medicine, communications or business today," said Schumer. "Combine those factors with the high attrition rate among new teachers, and it spells a crisis."

Twentyfive years ago more than half of all teachers in America were under the age of 35. Today, only a quarter are under 35. Schumer also noted that newer positions are often being filled with teachers who lack certification or expertise in the subjects they are teaching.

"Many people talk about the problems with teacher tenure and about getting rid of bad teachers. We should get rid of bad teachers, but there are too few qualified new teachers to take their place," said Schumer.

Schumer said low starting pay for teachers is scaring young people away from teaching. "Teachers in the profession for more than 10 years generally have respectable salaries, but getting to that point means paying a lot of dues and many potentially great teachers are choosing a different line of work," said Schumer. "The pipeline is getting older."

As Teachers Age, Too Few Young People Enter the Field

 

  1. In New York State, onethird of all teachers are at least 50 years of age. Only onefifth are age 32 or younger.
  2. Yonkers Central School District in Westchester County anticipates half of its teachers retiring over the next five years.
  3. Pearl River Central School District in Rockland County has seen 30% of its teachers retire or leave over the past 3 years.
  4. In Mount Vernon Central School District in Westchester, a combination of budget cuts and teacher retirements will increase the average class size from 22 to 27.
  5. School districts in Albany, Westchester, and New York have all had difficulty finding qualified math, science and computer classroom teachers.

"The goal of the Marshall Plan is to make teaching a more exalted profession that attracts the best and the brightest to the classroom. It is clear to me that we cannot expect to remain the number one economy in the world when by some measures our education system ranks 19 th  out of the 21 industrialized nations."

Schumer said that to alleviate the teacher crisis three factors have to change: the earnings power of new teachers must rise, high attrition rates among young teachers must fall, and incentives must be created so teachers improve and develop professionally.

Schumer unveiled his plan today after spending much of the last eight months meeting with educators, academicians, business leaders and researchers about the teacher crisis. Specifically, the Marshall Plan for Teachers will:

 

  1. attract young, qualified individuals to teaching by forgiving all student loans for those who teach for at least five years;
  2. retain promising young teachers in their early years when they are most likely to leave the profession by creating a Mentor Teacher program whereby the best teachers adopt young teachers and help train and counsel them in matters of teaching, class discipline, and curriculum development;
  3. promote excellence in math and science teaching through a five year federal grant of $2,500 a year for math and science teachers who pass an advanced competency test developed by the National Academy of Sciences.
  4. improve teacher quality by providing grants to school districts to cover 75% of the cost for teachers to complete a oneyear intensive program to become board certified; and
  5. recruit experts in the fields of math, science, history and English through a public service campaign and oneyear teacher training grants that encourages those who have concluded their careers in other professions like law, medicine, journalism and engineering to consider teaching in the public schools during their retirement years.

Schumer said that he estimates the cost of his plan to be roughly $15 billion over the next ten years but that he is asking the Congressional Budget Office to provide a more exact estimate.

"It's called the 'Marshall Plan for Teaching' because like the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe this is a serious dedication of funds to repair a system that is broken but which must survive to ensure a bright future for this country. The bottom line is that we have to make teaching an exalted profession on par with professions in law or medicine because in today's world a teacher holds a special place in society," said Schumer.

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