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Friday, February 17, 2017

Why do Science Teachers Leave a School?

“Why do science teachers leave a school?”
Numbers Say: The High School Physics Teachers Shortage Will Be Fixed In 130 Years.

in 2013 about 40 % of high school students took a physics course.
According to this source

in 2013 there were close to 16,000,000 high school students in the U.S. That would give about 4,000,000 graduates. Forty percent of this number is equal to 1,600,000 students. 
The more accurate number is 1,400,000; in 2013 this many high school students were enrolled in a physics course (thank you David Meltzer for finding out this information: see Appendix I).
Let’s use a very conservative estimation.
Let’s assume that each class had 30 students, and one teacher was teaching four classes. That gives us about 11,666 physics teachers.
According to PhysTec coalition

only 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have a degree in physics or physics education.
Which means, high schools need to hire about 7,777 properly prepared high school physics teachers.
 According again to PhysTec coalition, the members of the coalition graduate about 60 teachers per a year. 

Keeping this pace, we need to wait for about 130 years until every high school in the U.S. will have a highly qualified physics teachers.
Please, note: we only talk here about a high school level, only about physics, and only about 40 % of students!
Adding middle school science teachers and including all students would quadruple the number.
Clearly, whatever PhysTec coalition is doing, will not help us to solve the problems of a science teachers shortage.
The problem even deepens if we take into an account the fact that many teachers do not stay in schools for a long time.
The Guardian says,
that too many of teachers leave the profession, and too few qualified professionals go into the profession.
If we assume that our calculations are correct, and The Guardian is right, the focus has to be shifted from teacher preparation to teacher retention and professional development of in-service teachers.
The next natural question to ask is why do teachers leave a school?
In the context of this publishing we should rephrase the question to: “Why do science teachers leave a school?”
What do we do these days when we need to find an answer to a question?
Of course!
We Google it! 

But what does it mean if even Google does not have an answer?
It simply means there is no data on this matter; no one publishes on this matter; no one study this matter.
I could have been speculating and offering my own opinions, but why would anyone take my speculations seriously?
That is why I just stop here (but continue in Appendix II).
If anyone would like to share their thoughts, please just post your comment!

Appendix I
From David Meltzer 
On the number of high school students taking physics
Susan White and Casey Langer Tesfaye, High School Physics Courses & Enrollments: Results from the 2012­13 Nationwide Survey of High School Physics Teachers (AIP, College Park,
MD, 2014). Available at:
This report examines enrollments in high school physics during the 2012­13 school year. 
Appendix II
From Jane Jackson
Why do teachers leave? Teacher morale has plummeted in recent years, with educators saying that school reform has made them the scapegoat for problems in public education.
According to a Sept. 2016 report by the Learning Policy Institute at Stanford University, most teachers who leave do so because of dissatisfaction ­­ ranging from physical conditions such as class sizes, facilities, and classroom resources ‹ to unhappiness with administrative practices, such as lack of support, classroom autonomy, or input to decisions ‹ to policy issues, such as the effects of testing and accountability. Assessments & accountability measures are the biggest dissatisfactions.
Reducing attrition by half could virtually eliminate shortages.
Fewer people are entering teacher preparation programs. Enrollments are down 35 percent and graduates dropped by 23 percent between 2009 and 2014.
Download the full report (Sept. 2016) at­crisis­teaching­brief

From me:
Jane Jackson makes a good point. In simple terms, teachers have to do too much work for too little money. And there are many social reasons for that. Still, would be useful to see the ranking (!) of the factors of the teacher dissatisfaction. Also, the reports (one of which is this do not go beyond recommendation which have been offered in many previous reports and document. If those recommendations had not worked in the past, why would they suddenly start working this time? 

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

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