The Need for Science Teachers

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Matt Lowry

Feb 7, 2009, 6:25:02 PM2/7/09
to Critical Teaching
Howdy all,

There was an article in the Chicago Tribune recently that disturbed me
a great deal. The short version is that there are *too many*
prospective teachers on the market, so many that most go without
getting a job. The twist is that while this is true, at the same time
there are *too few* prospective science & math teachers on the
market. Talk about a recipe for disaster. Anyway, there's more to
the story, so anyone interested can see my blog entry on it...

I'd be interested in knowing if there are similar trends in other
countries (such as in Australia) or if this is a phenomenon limited to
the United States. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Cheers - Matt


Feb 8, 2009, 12:22:38 AM2/8/09
to Critical Teaching

In California, there has been a huge teacher shortage for years due to
the mandatory reduction of class sizes. The problem was so bad that
they've been giving teachers full time positions with only the promise
to earn the required credentials.

However, with the budget problems that persist, layoffs are looming.

I wonder about the problem of a market flooded with applicants, but
none of them qualified to teach the difficult topics.

I took the CBEST, which is California's Exam for prospective teachers,
immediately after graduating with my BA. My plans did not include
teaching at that level, but I wanted to keep my options open and have
it on my CV.

Two things AMAZED ME:
1 - The test that I took was a total joke. I ACED it. My 5th grader
probably would have.
2 - There were people at the test who were nervous because it was the
5th or 6th time for them. Most were able to eventually pass the verbal
section, but not the math.

Once they pass, these people are as qualified as the person who passed
the first time.


Feb 8, 2009, 9:34:20 AM2/8/09
to Critical Teaching
The training situation in Australia is different - you must have an
undergrad degree and a postgraduate in education, which is how most
people become a teacher.
The alternative is a three-year teaching degree and a compulsory
Masters of Teaching fourth year on top of that - most go for the
undergrad/postgrad instead, as if you chose to leave teaching, you
still have a field you've specialised in.

When I was last talking about teaching at Dragon*Con, the following
Education Taskforce Report had recently been released (June, 2008) and
it became the source of the comments I made on a panel about the
'status' that teaching had. There were people in the audience
incredulous that I dared talk about teaching as 'not respected'. I
wish I had copies of this document to physically hand to people - as
it was, I ended up blogging links to it:

The 'Twomey Report'.

Did I mention that the teaching union had to fight to get this
released? ;) ;)

"The Ministerial Taskforce, Education Workforce Initiatives, was
developed in response to the progressive decline in the number of
teachers available to work in certain areas of the Western Australian
education workforce over recent years. This trend is compounded by a
corresponding reduction in the numbers of people entering education
degree courses and subsequently entering the teaching workforce. These
are part of an Australia-wide trend and, while most acute in Western
Australia, where employment has reached record highs, they are
progressively becoming more evident across Australia.

To-date major shortages have been experienced in: secondary rather
than primary schools; regional more than metropolitan locations – with
the exception of a few difficult-to-staff metropolitan schools;
particular subject areas, most notably the physical sciences,
languages (particularly English), mathematics, design and technology,
and home economics. Similarly, vocational education and training is
under extreme pressure as the demand for skilled, experienced
individuals caused by massive resources growth has made it difficult
to retain current staff and attract new lecturers."


"At every forum and in most submissions there was comment on the
perceived decline in the status of teaching and teachers in recent
years. The Taskforce commissioned TNS Social Research to consider
teacher status as part of their brief and the research showed high
levels of appreciation from parents and the community in general. It
was teachers who were most critical about their status and saw it
manifest in terms of ‘low’ salaries, ‘poor’ working conditions,
student behaviour, a ‘hostile’ press and what they saw as the absence
of a strong voice in their support."

Factors also include:

"The Western Australian teacher workforce is also highly-feminised,
with female staff comprising 73 percent of the total workforce, of
these: relief teachers – 76 percent are female; public education
sector teachers – 74 percent are female; non-government teaching
workforce – 70 percent is female.

The proportion of males across the system is low and falling. Of
particular concern is the decrease in male enrolments into education
studies, which decreased by 29 percent over the period 1983 to 2000.
The 2004 MCEETyA report identified three major causes for the drop in
males entering teaching: salaries are uncompetitive and career
advancement opportunities limited; teaching is perceived as an
occupation for women; fears of being labelled a child abuser or sexual
deviant have grown."

As for employment:

The number of graduate teachers available to teach in Western
Australia is expected to increase only marginally in the coming years,
from 1,500 available to teach for 2007 to 1,557 for 2008 and 1,598 for
2009, and to remain at this level into the next decade.

The MCEETyA report (2004) identified that employment opportunities for
new graduates was very low in the early to mid-1990s (only 55 percent
of the graduates received offers) but by 2001/02 this had increased to
80 percent. This indicates that the teacher ‘pool’ of available staff
has fallen over this period. Moreover, there has been a marked decline
in the number of teacher education applications in Western Australia
in recent years. Tertiary Institute Services Centre (TISC) data
indicates a total of 1,760 have applied for education courses this
year, which is down significantly (30 percent) from the 2,569
applications in 2003/04.
The impact of the half year cohort of students will present further
challenges in 2016 as these students will influence the supply of
teachers as they feed into tertiary education. As presented in the
information above, it is also likely that the labour market will
continue to be tight, therefore, competition for these students in the
employment market is also expected to be high."

Of course, what it doesn't take into account was the mining boom in
Western Australia of the past five years, which had many Science and
Maths teachers throw in the job for far better-paying jobs on mining

Now those sites are hit by the world-wide economic downturn, some are
starting to return to teaching. I have one friend who is in the fourth
week of teacher-training, after returning to school from being a
Computer Scientist for eleven years. He's... a little stressed, to say
the least. Apparently kids are a bit more of a handful than he
suspected. :/


Feb 8, 2009, 11:45:51 AM2/8/09
to Critical Teaching
On Feb 8, 6:34 am, kiless <> wrote:
> There were people in the audience incredulous that I
> dared talk about teaching as 'not respected'.

We (humans, or maybe just Americans, I don't know) talk a lot about
the noble profession of teaching. We assume that teachers are smart,
knowledgeable, and divinely inspired. We pay them the utmost and,
sometimes unearned, respect verbally and superficially.

But if we value teachers as much as we say we do, why are they so

We say we value education, but we're never willing to pay for it. We
cannot hope to attract the best into the profession if they must give
up all comforts to do it. Instead, we'll get those who can't get a
higher paying job.
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