After what seemed like an excruciatingly long week, NBC’s much-anticipated “Education Nation” summit is over. Coupled with the release of the much-hyped “Waiting for Superman” documentary, public educationand particularly teachers–have been under intense, and sometimes unfair, scrutiny.
Teachers unions are under the gun (particularly the American Federation of Teachers, which is smaller but represents employees in more cities than the National Education Association) and many times it seemed AFT leader Randi Weingarten was constantly engaged in a back-and-forth with D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
No doubt it is time to have a serious conversation about tenure and contracts (and the pension system). But we can’t ignore recruitment as welleven as many school districts are laying off teachers, long-term data show that many experienced teachers are getting ready to retire.
Less than 10 years ago, states such as California and Florida were dealing with record growth and mandates to reduce class sizes in elementary grades. Our then-robust economy was driving many teachers to higher-paying private sector jobs and good teachers were in short supply, complicating their intentions to find relatively good hires.
At Education Nation, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promoted teach.gov, the new federal website that lists teaching jobs and has information on the profession.
ASBJ Editor Glenn Cook reports that Duncan, in a one-on-one interview with NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw at the “Education Nation” summit, said the campaign is working to recruit 1 million new, qualified teachers over the next five years, particularly males, minorities, and those who can fill the “hard-to-staff positions” such as math, science, and special education.
“We have to elevate the status of the teaching profession,” Duncan said. “The countries that are outperforming us today are getting the best and brightest to go into education.”
Well, if you want to recruit for tomorrow, the rest of Education Nation was about as discouraging as it could get. It’s going to take a lot more than a website (which has already been done) and a few kind words in the midst of what became a union-bashing event to really move forward.
Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor