It’s almost back-to-school time, but districts across the U.S. are struggling to find teachers for areas like science, math and bilingual education. Fewer people are becoming teachers than in the past: Enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the U.S. fell by around 30 percent between 2010 and 2014. Some blame the economic recovery, which is giving former teachers, who suffered through years of recession layoffs and poor teacher wages and working conditions, other options. Now, as schools scramble to fill slots, there’s concern fast hiring will lead to under-qualified teachers and weaker school systems. As we head into the new academic year, we look at what’s causing a shortage in teachers and how some school districts are responding.


  • Linda Darling-Hammond Professor of education, Stanford University; chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
  • Stephen Sawchuck Associate editor, Education Week
  • Anthony Carnevale Director and research professor, Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University
  • Chad Aldeman Associate partner, Bellwether Education Partners; former policy advisor, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education
  • Mónica Vasquez Chief HR officer, San Francisco Unified School District; former bilingual classroom teacher in southern California


  • 10:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Many students in the U.S. are heading back to school. Some will be greeted by new, untrained teachers. A teacher shortage has school districts from Rhode Island to California trying to fill positions quickly creating concern that quality is losing out in the rush to staff up. Here for a look at teacher shortages across the U.S., Stephen Sawchuck of Education Week, Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce, and Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners.

  • 10:07:33

    MS. DIANE REHMOn the line from California, Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. I'm sure many of you have comments you'd like to make. Join us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And thank you all for being with us.

  • 10:08:04

    MR. STEPHEN SAWCHUCKThanks for having us.

  • 10:08:04


  • 10:08:05

    MR. CHAD ALDEMANThank you.

  • 10:08:08

    REHMAnd Stephen Sawchuck, I'll start with you. Give us the big picture. I know California is particularly hard hit, but what about other states?

  • 10:08:20

    SAWCHUCKWhen we look nationally at the number of people going into teaching and enrollment numbers in teacher preparation programs. We do see a marked decline really since about 2008. You mentioned earlier that it's about a 30 percent drop. Some states, like California, seem to be particularly heavily hit by this. Two caveats, first one thing to keep in mind always with the teacher labor market is that it's very regional, which means -- I mean, it's a profession of 3.5 million people.

  • 10:08:54

    SAWCHUCKAnd so, for example, take Michigan, which is a state that has, for years, had an oversupply, not an undersupply of teachers. The problem is that they're not always distributed in the ways you want. So in the Upper Peninsula, you can still have a shortage because it's simply harder to attract people to move up there, even though the state, when you do the math out, it looks like they should have enough numbers to meet supply.

  • 10:09:20

    SAWCHUCKThe second thing that's important to understand is that not all credentialing fields feel a shortage in the same way. And by that, I mean that we have tended to oversupply elementary and early childhood education teachers, but we traditionally have had shortages in math, science and actually one of the hardest hit fields is special education. A colleague of mine, Ross Brenaman (sp?) , actually took a look at the fields in which states were reporting shortage and for 20 years they've reported shortages, of special education teachers.

  • 10:09:55

    SAWCHUCKSo yes, numbers are down, but I always hesitate a little bit to say a national teacher shortage because I think where it's really felt is on the district by district level.

  • 10:10:07

    REHMStephen Sawchuck of Education Week. Turning to you, Chad Aldeman, why are we seeing these shortages in your view?

  • 10:10:19

    ALDEMANA big part of it is cyclicality and there's a big study out recently looking at the college major choices of 20-year-olds and what they choose. And it tied it from 1960 all the way up to 2011 and it looked at what majors students chose, depending on how the broader economy was going. And they estimated that teachers and education was one of the most cyclical majors and that for every one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, the -- about 6 percent fewer college 20-year-olds, sophomores, were likely to go into education.

  • 10:10:56

    ALDEMANSo when we see something like the great recession when the unemployment rate went from about 4.5 percent to 10 percent, that's 5.5 percentage point and we can expect a large decline in the number of college students who are interested in education.

  • 10:11:11

    REHMNow, does that have anything to do with, say, Common Core or teacher evaluations or teacher's not being treated well or, indeed, salaries?

  • 10:11:25

    ALDEMANI think there's something to do with all those things, but it's hard to pin down what exactly those are. I think a much more simple explanation is that the economy is driving a lot of this and that's been true -- the study found that that's been true since 1960.

  • 10:11:41

    REHMWhat do you mean, the economy is driving it?

  • 10:11:43

    ALDEMANSo students, you know, at 20, are looking around at what kind of majors they could choose and what might lead to a successful career and that's the time they're going to make their decision. And if you ask 20-year-olds, most of them don't know about the Common Core. They don't know about teacher evaluations. They don't know about other things that are going on in the profession so it's not that they're evaluating the profession holistically.

  • 10:12:05

    ALDEMANIt's that they're making decisions based on the economy. The other thing I'd say here is that teachers are actually making similar decisions. So retention rates are going up as well in schools, even at the same time that teachers are often expressing dissatisfaction with some of the latest reforms.

  • 10:12:20

    REHMChad Aldeman, he's with Bellwether Education Partners. Linda Darling-Hammond, I wonder how you've seen it. You have said you think it's going to get worse before it gets better.

  • 10:12:39

    MS. LINDA DARLING-HAMMONDWell, in California, and to Steve's point, it is very regional. We are seeing probably the most difficult circumstance. California had budget cuts for many, many years, even before the great recession and in the last few years, we've had massive layoffs of teachers. If you're a 20-year-old, to the point that Chad was making, looking at opportunities, it doesn't look like a good field to go into if you know that there are few, if any, jobs for young teachers and that your friends or colleagues who've preceded you are being laid off.

  • 10:13:14

    MS. LINDA DARLING-HAMMONDSo we have had very, very steep declines in the number of people going into teacher education and we are about to see a very steep increase in demand and this will happen nationally, but even more steeply in California as a function both of returning funding to the schools and this pent-up demand for hiring and also because we have growing population here, which is not the case in every state.

  • 10:13:42

    MS. LINDA DARLING-HAMMONDSo we will begin to see an increase. We've already seen about a 20 percent increase in the number of young people, excuse me, who are going into teacher education and getting their initial credential in California, just this last year. But we're going to have to see a much bigger increase than that to meet the demand that is going to continue for the coming years.

  • 10:14:06

    REHMLinda, tell me how great the shortage actually is in California.

  • 10:14:13

    DARLING-HAMMONDWell, we had gotten to the point where we were not hiring teachers on emergency credentials or others who had not finished their training. So the quality dimensions were getting better than they had been some years ago. But in the last year, there was about a 30 percent uptick in the number of teachers who were given waivers or emergency permits of various kinds to go into teaching who had not begun their training to teach.

  • 10:14:44

    DARLING-HAMMONDSo we're definitely noticing that it is, as others have said in special education, it's a five-alarm fire in that field, partly because federal investments in training special education teachers have waned and we've been feeling this across the country. Mathematics, physical science, bilingual and English as a second language teachers are all very intense areas of need.

  • 10:15:10

    REHMLinda Darling-Hammond, she's professor of education at Stanford University and chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Anthony Carnevale, none of this is new, I gather. It's been going on for quite a while.

  • 10:15:33

    CARNEVALEThere is a pattern in education where we have high aspirations for teachers in spring, but we're usually repentant on Labor Day and hire whoever's hanging around. And this is one of those cases and I suspect it will continue for a while. We're looking at a demand for teachers. It's a 9 million person labor market in education, mostly filled by teachers one way or another. We're looking at a 10 million person labor market by 2024. One million new jobs and two million replacement jobs for baby boom retirees. That is a steep climb.

  • 10:16:12

    REHMAnd most of the teaching profession is filled by women, is it not?

  • 10:16:21

    CARNEVALEThe story is really a women's story. What happened in the recession was that the recession 2007 to 2010 hit males especially in construction, but in manufacturing and elsewhere. Women got hit in the recovery, since 2010, because of the collapse in public budgets and teaching is probably the lead horse in that phenomenon. We're going to see more of that. Not-for-profits and government funded jobs, which tend to be highly concentrated with females are going to be tough to get for some time to come.

  • 10:16:56

    REHMSo do you think women are looking elsewhere for better pay, for less hassle, for more job security?

  • 10:17:09

    CARNEVALEI think the status of teaching as declined a whole lot in my time. In the '70s, 75 percent of American families were headed by people with only a high school degree and when you went to the teacher/parent conference, your job -- and I can remember it was to be approved of by the teacher, not to approve the teacher. Most of us now have some college or other and when we talk to teachers, we're talking down to them more often than not and making demands.

  • 10:17:35

    CARNEVALESo and that's true in public policy as well. It's a tough business. It is simply not as attractive as it used to be. Women have moved off, to some extent. They're still captured by teaching, but they've moved off, to some extent, into business fields.

  • 10:17:51

    REHMAnthony Carnevale, he's director and research professor at the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. We are going to take your calls, questions, comments. Join us after a short break. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the shortage in teachers that many states across the country are facing as a result, in part, of the economic downturn, the fact that many teachers left the profession when money in states went down, when teacher lay-offs occurred big time. And now there seems to be a shortage, especially in math and the sciences. Here with me: Stephen Sawchuck, he's associate editor of Education Week. Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University. Chad Aldeman, who was formally at the U.S. Department of Education, he's now with Bellwether Education Partners.

  • 10:21:04

    REHMAnd by phone from Stanford University, Linda Darling-Hammond. She's also chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Where are graduates going instead of teaching, Chad?

  • 10:21:27

    ALDEMANThe study I mentioned earlier, looking at the college majors of 20-year-olds, found that when education fields lose students, the places that are earning them, that are winning them are -- especially for women -- are things like engineering or accounting or business. For men, the cyclicality is actually even higher. So men are even more likely to change based on the economy. And, again, education was the biggest loser for men. And they were going into things like engineering and business, things that would confer more -- higher starting salaries and potentially more prestige to the profession.

  • 10:22:05

    REHMAnd Linda Darling, I know you wanted to jump in on that whole women's issue as far as education is concerned.

  • 10:22:16

    DARLING-HAMMONDWell, it may be in part because women are dominant in education. But we treat education and teaching in this country much less well than many other countries do. Our teachers earn about 60 percent of what the average college graduate earns, if you look across the country. It does vary from state to state. Some states are much better places to teach than others. And in countries like Finland or Singapore or other leading achievers in the world, teachers earn as much as other college graduates. So they're not always trying to compete from a disadvantaged position. They also pay the full freight for young people going into teaching. It's tuition free. They get a stipend or a salary while they train.

  • 10:23:07

    DARLING-HAMMONDIn the United States in most places, if you want to go into teaching, you'll have to go into debt, because there are very few financial-aid supports to enter the most important profession we have -- the profession on which all others depend -- and then to go into a field that will pay you less well. So all of these are also factors that those 20-year-olds and others are thinking about when they're considering their careers.

  • 10:23:35

    REHMSo you've had some PR blitzes going on. For example, in Clark County, Nev., they had a huge marketing campaign recruiting even outside its own borders. And I gather, Linda, there are some districts and counties that have put together mortgage support for teachers and some other innovative recruitment devices.

  • 10:24:08

    DARLING-HAMMONDYes, there are places that have been very aggressive about recruiting. And, as I said, there are some places, too, that are offering more competitive salaries and other benefits. One of the most successful programs was in North Carolina for many years, where they identified high ability young people in high school, paid their entire freight to go to college. They called them North Carolina teaching fellows. They got a disproportionate number of men and minority and math and science teachers this way. They prepared them well. They could only go into the better preparation programs. And then they promised four years to teach in the North Carolina Public Schools. We found that, seven years later, 85 percent were still there.

  • 10:24:58


  • 10:24:58

    DARLING-HAMMONDMany had become leaders. They were more effective than other teachers because they'd been so carefully selected and trained, and they stayed. So there are those kinds of initiatives as well, which emulate what the federal government does in medicine.

  • 10:25:13

    REHMBut what happened to the North Carolina program?

  • 10:25:17

    DARLING-HAMMONDWell, unfortunately, a year or two ago, there was a change in the Congress there and, in part because of budget cuts and in part because of ideological changes, they put that program on the ice for the moment, just at a time when they really need it. And others have, in fact, tried to emulate it.

  • 10:25:39

    REHMWhat about this whole issue of lowering the level of credentialing for teachers. What is that all about, Stephen?

  • 10:25:53

    SAWCHUCKWell, the bottom line is that classrooms need teachers in them and districts are going to find ways to find teachers for them. I think we have to be careful here to distinguish between teachers on emergency credentials, which typically means that you have no training and probably very little classroom experience. Sometimes it's substitutes that are made emergency -- are given emergency credentials and put in classrooms. That is worrisome because we do know that those teachers tend to not do as well as others. There are other options.

  • 10:26:29

    SAWCHUCKThere are alternative programs where -- which is more like an apprenticeship. So you may be the teacher of record, but you are taking coursework and you have a mentor who is hopefully in the room with you a lot, helping you. And those programs have sprung up largely to meet market needs in some of the fields that we talked about earlier, like math and science.

  • 10:26:51

    REHMSo, Anthony, should we be making it easier for teachers to get into the classroom, whether on a permanent or potentially a short-term basis?

  • 10:27:07

    CARNEVALEIdeally, of course not. It shouldn't be easier, it should be harder. But the reality is there's a $3.3 million difference between the lifetime earnings of a teacher and the lifetime earnings of an engineer, on average. So the question is, what can -- you know, you have to pay for higher credentials. And the reality is, in the American system, teachers in many cases aren't there to teach anyway. That is, we use our schools to warehouse our children while we're at work. And it becomes crucial that there's an adult in a classroom. The public does not feel, I think, in general, for other people's children, that it's crucial that that adult be able to teach.

  • 10:27:47

    REHMTell me what happened in Finland and why that country stands at number one in terms of both its teachers and student outcome, Linda.

  • 10:28:03

    DARLING-HAMMONDWell, Finland, many years ago, decided to create a very equitable system of public education. They got rid of their tracking systems, their old exam systems. They put in place a common curriculum. They said, this is going to be hard to teach all the kids to these high standards. Sort of like the conversation we're having now around the Common Core in some states. We need really well-prepared teachers. So they put in place a two-year Master's Degree program for all teachers, free of charge, with a stipend while people are training.

  • 10:28:37

    DARLING-HAMMONDTeachers are very highly selected. Only about one in ten people who want to become a primary school teacher actually make it through the cut, which is made both on academic ability, but also commitment to the field and ability to work well with children. And in those training programs, they make sure that teachers learn how to teach all kids really well. They do a lot of work on special education for all their teachers so that they can teach students who struggle. And then they find that, if they can do that, they can teach all the children well. They have a Master's Degree, Research Projects. They have to really learn how to use research, how to do research.

  • 10:29:18

    REHMAnd what about salaries?

  • 10:29:21

    DARLING-HAMMONDAnd salaries are not outrageously high but they are comparable to those of other college graduates. So they're kind of at the average. But because of the strong training, teaching is very highly respected in Finland. It is a high-status job. And there's a lot of autonomy for teachers. They're given a lot of trust and responsibility in the classroom to make decisions. And it becomes, therefore, a very satisfying job. So very few people leave teaching. And there's a steady supply of very well-prepared people coming in. And that's one of the things we find makes a difference for teachers in terms of whether they leave.

  • 10:30:02

    DARLING-HAMMONDOur attrition rates went from 6 percent to about 9 percent recently in the country. And in places like Finland, the attrition rate in teaching is something like 2 percent. It's very, very low. Teachers here also say, "I want to work with good colleagues. I want to be trusted, respected, have good administrative supports. Those are the things that will keep me in the profession." And we don't see that kind of treatment for teachers everywhere.

  • 10:30:32

    REHMAnd why is that, Chad Aldeman?

  • 10:30:34

    ALDEMANI think one thing that's important here is to look at the history here. And there's a tradeoff between selectivity and quantity. And in some places, we've chosen selectivity. And you can do things like provide higher salaries and focus more on your training. If you choose quantity, like we have done in this country -- in 1965 we had a teacher-to-pupil ratio of 27 to 1, in the most recent data, it's about 15.5 to 1. That means we have more positions per student than we did in the past, which means we have to hire more people.

  • 10:31:05

    ALDEMANAnd assuming that the budgets can't change -- if it's a constrained environment, then you're making choices there between how many people you can bring in and what type of people you bring in and how much you can pay them. So I think that that historical line is important to look at as well.

  • 10:31:21

    REHMAll right. We've got lots of callers who'd like to make comments. Let's open the phones now. We'll go first to Sioux City, Iowa. Hi, there, Greg. You're on the air. Go right ahead.

  • 10:31:37

    GREGHi. I'm a teacher from Sioux City, Iowa, and I've been teaching for about five years now. And I want to say that I think a big part of the reason why you're seeing people leave the profession and why you're seeing young people not want to enter the profession is because the demands on teachers and the lack of respect are both just increasing all the time. We're expected to be martyrs. We're expected to -- for example, I get emails at nine o'clock at night, ten o'clock at night, from students and parents. And they get mad at me the next day if I haven't responded that night.

  • 10:32:12

    GREGAnd yet, with all these demands, especially here in Iowa with the rural districts -- where we're expected at the high school level to teach five or six, seven different classes a day of different contents -- with that increase in workload, we're still not getting paid adequately. So you're teaching six different courses a day, often with 30 students crammed into a classroom, and yet you're getting paid $37,000 a year. So it comes to a point where it's simply just not worth the time and the headache of parents yelling at you, administrators and students disrespecting you, to work so hard and just not get paid adequately.

  • 10:32:53

    REHMAnthony Carnevale.

  • 10:32:56

    CARNEVALEThe difficulty we face -- and I think it's going to get worse before it gets better -- is we can't then, because we have problems keeping teachers or because the quality of teaching isn't sufficient, we can't take the pressure off. Education is the most acceptable route to upward mobility in America. We're not going to redistribute income directly. So when we believe education works because people are ultimately responsible for their own fate, while education is not fair, that's generally true. So there's going to be more and more pressure, more and more tests, more and more demands on teachers. And we're not going to pay them any more.

  • 10:33:34

    CARNEVALEAnd I'm not sure where all these leads. It means that people who are captured by teaching -- and most of them are after they've been there a few years -- are going to be, as they are now, extremely hard-working people without much remuneration or without much fanfare.

  • 10:33:50

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." How has this happened? What has evolved over the years, to take teaching from number one, the most-respected profession in the country, now to almost you're -- the thing you batter every single day. You walk in the classroom. You take advantage of the teacher. You complain about the teacher's grading. You complain about the teacher's teaching. What's gone on here, Chad?

  • 10:34:36

    ALDEMANYeah. I guess I would push back a little bit on that. The objective surveys of teachers show that they are relatively satisfied. If you ask teachers how satisfied they are, about 80 percent of teachers will say they're satisfied or very satisfied. And that compares relatively favorably to other professions.

  • 10:34:51

    REHMLinda, do you want to jump in?

  • 10:34:53

    DARLING-HAMMONDWell, there's a paradox. And Chad is right, there are high rates of satisfaction. Teachers typically like working with children and with their students and they get a lot of satisfaction from that. At the same time, there was an international survey recently where American teachers said only about a third thought that their society respected the profession. And that proportion is even lower in Europe, where you've got, you know, 90 percent feel satisfied with teaching and, you know, 20 percent think the society cares about their profession. And it's a real conundrum that, you know, this is a field that, in fact, can be wonderfully satisfying if you really enter it because you want to make a difference in the lives of young people.

  • 10:35:36

    DARLING-HAMMONDAnd to feel that the society around you has so little regard is, you know, a paradox that I think we need to solve in terms of how we think about the society's treatment of teaching. Now, it is much better in some places than others. And I was listening to Anthony's very dismal painting of the status of teaching. I would say, you know, in California, things are getting better. And I do expect we're going to see the increase in supply, although we need to have some public policies that make it easier and create more incentive. But there's more money in the system, it's being spent more equitably. We used to spend much less money in low-income districts, much more in high-income districts. That's being turned around.

  • 10:36:24

    DARLING-HAMMONDThe places that most need teachers are getting more resources. There hasn't been a strong punitive accountability strategy here. It's really about supporting teachers to teach new standards and not bashing them. And we are seeing a more positive attitude about both teaching and going into teaching beginning to emerge. So it's not inevitable that we will treat teachers badly and watch the profession evaporate in front of our eyes.

  • 10:36:55

    REHMStephen, would you agree with that?

  • 10:36:57

    SAWCHUCKYou know, I think a lot of what we're talking about is prestige. And if we have a profession that's prestigious, then we have people who want to go in and we solve our supply problems. And then we, you know, hopefully the way we keep people is by giving them good working conditions. You know, that is a very philosophical question. You cannot legislate or mandate a profession to be more prestigious. So although there are lessons to be drawn from Finland, we have to really think about why it is that we seem to have this less prestigious profession. I'm going to give you two examples. I was just...

  • 10:37:32

    REHMWe'll have to get those when we come back after a short break.

  • 10:37:35


  • 10:37:37

    REHMBut one thing you really have to concentrate on is salary. It's just not fair. And short break, we'll be right back.

  • 10:40:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. We have four very well-informed guests with us, talking about what's happening to the teacher profession. And Stephen Sawchuck, just before the break you were about to talk about salary, among other issues.

  • 10:40:21

    SAWCHUCKWell, we were talking about, I mean, I think if you value people and you value a profession you pay them highly. And we do know that, I mean, teacher salaries and, of course, this depends based on the state and the district you're in, but they tend to be quite low on the front end. So we have -- there are a few examples of districts in New York City, in 2005, for example, that really lifted up beginning teacher salaries because they wanted to get just more people applying and be able to be more selective about who they were entering in.

  • 10:40:48

    SAWCHUCKIt turns out this is complicated to do for a number of reasons. First of all, you can't -- the way contracts typically work is you cannot offer premiums, most of the time, to math and science fields to get those people in. You have to pay all teachers sort of roughly the same. I know Chad can talk more about this, but it's also a profession where we have tended to sort of backload compensation by putting money into pension benefits.

  • 10:41:15

    SAWCHUCKAnd, of course, I, you know, like, of course I think that teachers, after working hard, should be able to have a good retirement. But at the end of the day, we have a limited amount of funds and we've tended to put them at the back end rather than the front end. The final thing I wanted to say about procedures -- and I think that this is such an issue of perception. I was in the Dallas airport the other day and I saw a billboard that said, "Become a teacher in six weeks." To me that does not say…

  • 10:41:40


  • 10:41:41

    SAWCHUCKThat does not say to me that this is a profession that values high standards. It says to me it's a profession where we need bodies. Similarly, I think the media has some complicity in this because when I see magazine covers with rotten apples and, you know, brooms on them, I mean, to me, if I were a teacher, no, I might not know all the details of Common Core teacher evaluation, but if I'm looking at this magazine cover with these kinds of images, I mean, I think that would say to me this isn't a profession where I'm necessarily going to be respected.

  • 10:42:09

    REHMLinda, what is your thinking about Common Core and the extent to which that may be turning off potential teachers?

  • 10:42:20

    DARLING-HAMMONDWell, Common Core is a set of standards, aspirations for what children might learn and be able to do. And in places like California, I would say teachers, generally speaking, are very enthusiastic about the Common Core because there's been a lot of support to learn to teach it. It's a big shift from the low-level skills that were emphasized in the past. Much more emphasis on higher order of thinking and problem solving and so on.

  • 10:42:51

    DARLING-HAMMONDSo many, many teachers are pleased about that. However, in some states Common Core has been tied up with testing, often quite intensive testing, sometimes testing tied to teacher evaluation decisions, including termination decisions, Decisions about whether kids will go from one grade level to another, whether they will graduate from school. Decisions about whether schools will be closed. And where a lot of punitive high stakes have been attached to tests, which have been attached to the Common Core, the Common Core has gotten a pretty bad name.

  • 10:43:29


  • 10:43:31

    DARLING-HAMMONDBecause it now represents, you know, people have forgotten about the standards and the aspirations for children's learning. They're focused on all the punishments that can emulate from what they know identify as the Common Core. And that's a problem.

  • 10:43:45

    REHMAnd now…

  • 10:43:48

    DARLING-HAMMOND…a problem for, I think, recruiting and retaining teachers. There was a survey recently that found that a very high proportion of teachers, particularly teachers of color in urban districts, which was the focus of the study, were complaining about the high-stakes accountability, the cumulative accountability as a reason that they were leaving the profession.

  • 10:44:08

    REHMInteresting. And joining us now by phone from Oakland, Calif., Monica Vasquez. She's chief human resources for the San Francisco Unified School District. She's a former bilingual classroom teacher in southern California. Welcome to the program, Monica.

  • 10:44:34

    MS. MONICA VASQUEZGood morning. Thank you for having me.

  • 10:44:37

    REHMIndeed. Well, with less than one week until San Francisco goes back to school are you all staffed up?

  • 10:44:46

    VASQUEZWe are getting there. And we are working around the clock. As of last night, we had two openings that we're trying to fill at the elementary level, six at the middle school level and nine at the high school level. So we're at about 20 that we're (unintelligible).

  • 10:45:03

    REHMAnd tell me is this any different from past years?

  • 10:45:07

    VASQUEZIt's not dramatically different from past years. Looking at the numbers, last year right around this time we had about 20 openings. What is different this year is that these remaining openings are as a result of late resignations and retirements. So as of August 1st, which is just a couple weeks ago, we've had 19 classroom openings. And those are based on late resignations and retirements.

  • 10:45:35

    REHMI see. Well, have you had to change your recruiting tactics at all?

  • 10:45:43

    VASQUEZAbsolutely. We knew, looking at the numbers of how many people are going into the profession, we knew that the minute the economy started to pick up again, the minute that more resources were infused into California schools, we would be opening more positions and we would have a need for more teachers. So this past year we moved to year round recruiting, as opposed to waiting for the spring for recruiting teachers.

  • 10:46:09

    VASQUEZWe actually started in the fall recruiting teachers. We also really worked hard with our local partners, university partners. So for us, that would be San Francisco State, Stanford and University of San Francisco to do a lot of recruiting in their credentialing classes in the fall, doing events with San Francisco Unified and those institutions for their students who would be graduating, as well as recent alumni. We also increased the number of what we call early contracts that we offered this year.

  • 10:46:41

    VASQUEZSo an early contract would be a contract that we offer to a highly-qualified prospective candidate that we want to bring to our district, but we're not sure where they're going to land. So offering them a contract as early as February and saying we're not sure where we're going to place you, but we promise you you'll have a job. So we offered 140 early contracts and about 112 were accepted by candidates.

  • 10:47:08

    REHMCan you give me a picture of the average salary that California is paying to those entering teachers?

  • 10:47:22

    VASQUEZSo that is a tricky question because it does vary from district to district. In San Francisco, for example -- and it depends on what you're coming in with, so whether you just have a bachelors, whether you have a bachelors plus additional units, plus a masters. So our scale in San Francisco on sort of the beginning end with just a bachelor's degree is about $48,000. And that's without any of the additional stipends that we provide in San Francisco Unified.

  • 10:47:53

    VASQUEZSo in San Francisco Unified, for example, we do have stipends for hard-to-staff pools, stipends for hard-to-fill subject areas. We offer a stipend if you're nationally board certified. So without any of that on the table, you're looking at 48, with just your bachelor's degree.

  • 10:48:11

    REHMI see. And finally, I know that you began your own career as a bilingual educator and you started out in the '90s when there was also a teacher shortage. So how has the picture changed since then?

  • 10:48:33

    VASQUEZInterestingly, it reminds me of the early '90s where we're at now. I was one of those teachers who was teaching in a hard-to-staff subject area. I went into teaching through a district intern program, which districts still have a lot of district intern programs out there where you are working on your credential while you're teaching. And that is how I entered the classroom, was through one of these programs, district sponsored intern program, which reminds me of where we're at now with the teacher shortage.

  • 10:49:05

    VASQUEZWe see districts looking at their residency programs, intern programs, any kind of alternative certification program to try to meet the needs because we're not getting enough coming out of credentialing, standard credentialing programs.

  • 10:49:20

    REHMAnd that is Monica Vasquez. She's chief human resources officer for the San Francisco Unified School District. Thanks for joining us and good luck to you.

  • 10:49:36

    VASQUEZThank you.

  • 10:49:36

    REHMAll right. And let's go now to Portland, N.Y. Katie, you're on the air. Go right ahead.

  • 10:49:46

    KATIEHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:49:47


  • 10:49:48

    KATIEI'm an ESL teacher and I have to say Finland sounds wonderful. There's a lot I'd like to add regarding respect for my profession. But my main point is that I'm a teacher who moved from California to New York. And although these two states have so-called reciprocity, there were expensive hoops to jump through that also took a lot of time before I could work. And right now, my nephew by marriage lives in Georgia and he's got a masters and a credential in history and he's since acquired three to four supplemental credentials.

  • 10:50:19

    KATIEAnd he can't find work in Georgia. But he's -- so now he's looking elsewhere, but he's going to have to uproot his family. He's got two young children. And then, you know, then you have to relocate to another state, jump through the hoops, it's expensive. You don't have income coming in necessarily. And then you have to see if you get tenure before you can really settle down.

  • 10:50:41


  • 10:50:41

    KATIESo I think those are difficult barriers.

  • 10:50:45

    REHMWhat do you think, Chad?

  • 10:50:46

    ALDEMANYeah, the reciprocity issue is a very important one. There's a study out of Washington looking at whether teachers were willing to cross the border into Oregon. And what it found was that teachers were far more likely to move very long distances within their own state, than to cross five miles into the neighboring state. And that's for a couple of reasons. One is the credential issue that we just talked about, that Katie talked about.

  • 10:51:08

    ALDEMANThe other thing is pensions. We haven't talked about that yet today, but pensions really tie teachers down to a particular state. There's a study -- there's no such thing as pension reciprocity. There are some rules that pension plans try to create, but they generally don't allow teachers to transfer their benefits across state lines. One study found that teachers working a 30-year career who split their career even in two states, they worked two 15-year stints, they can lose half to 75 percent of their pension wealth just by that one move across state lines.

  • 10:51:40

    SAWCHUCKKatie, can I quote you for a story? I -- this is something I hear all the time. There was even actually recently a lawsuit filed in Minnesota from teachers from out of state. Because they found it so difficult to jump through the licensing hoops to get a certificate there. And to be honest with you, I'm not even sure what drives this -- who drives this. If it's some sort of misplaced sense of state pride. But…

  • 10:52:05

    REHMYeah, should states be making changes?

  • 10:52:06

    SAWCHUCK…states make it, you know, and clearly, I mean, every state has slightly different course-work requirements and things that you have to do, but for a lot of teachers this means going back to school, picking up a class or two, it often comes out of their pockets. I don't understand entirely why we have bar exam reciprocity, but we don't have anything like that with regard to teachers.

  • 10:52:29

    REHMThat's interesting.

  • 10:52:29

    SAWCHUCKI mean, you're constricting supply, essentially. 'Cause it's harder for people to move.

  • 10:52:34

    REHMWe have a tweet from Judy, in Norman, Okla., who says, "I retired after a lifetime of teaching and with a master's degree, but my peak salary never broke $50,000 per year." And here San Francisco is starting new teachers at $48,000. You know, what's going on here, Anthony? Can a -- is the whole issue of teacher salary something that really has to be wrestled with?

  • 10:53:13

    CARNEVALEI think it does. And I think we're gonna have a hard time with it. We're in a situation now where virtually all the growth in public funding -- and this is public function -- is shifting toward Medicare, Medicaid, disability and the retirement of people like me. And we are systematically reducing spending for the development of young people and people who are working. So, and more and more, the new money is coming for higher education. Listen to the candidates' debate, at least on the Democratic side. This is a point that moves votes. K-12 doesn't move votes any more, higher Ed does.

  • 10:53:50

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Michelle in Peoria, Ill. You're on the air.

  • 10:54:03

    MICHELLEHi, Diane.

  • 10:54:04


  • 10:54:05

    MICHELLEI think I always feel like the elephant in the room when we talk about teachers and teacher's salary, is that there's quite a bias out there about teachers and their compensation due to the fact that they do have immediately, the first year working, a lot of vacation time. I think it amounts to about eight months of working and the rest of the time they have off. They have a really, you know, a great time around the holidays and other professionals do not get that. They have a benefit of having a great pension, better than many. And a lifetime insurance for -- after they start.

  • 10:54:46

    MICHELLEAfter -- once they have reached tenure it's very hard for the teacher to be removed from the system, which (unintelligible) a lot of documentation that most administrators are not willing to do. So I think that of all professions, the teachers probably have honed their skills to be worth more than just their salary, when you add the whole package together. If you take only their salaries, yes, they are horribly underpaid. But if you take all their benefits, I believe that they're probably being compensated a little bit more fairly than what it is normally put out there to the public.

  • 10:55:20

    REHMAll right. All right. Thanks for your call. My understanding is that many of these teachers take on other jobs during the summer in order to compensate for the salary, the fairly low salary that they are making as teachers. Am I right, Anthony?

  • 10:55:44

    CARNEVALEYeah, in the end when you take those three months or even four months and add the money in, they still don't do very well. In order to make BA wage, even at say the 30th percentile of BAs in America, you need some sort of graduate degree in teaching. That is a master's degree generally. So it is the third lowest-paying college major we have, behind, you know, teaching and preaching are pretty much the things you don't -- that you feel good about and you don't get paid for.

  • 10:56:13

    SAWCHUCKI think Michelle, though, does raise a good point by saying that we have to look at the entirety of teacher compensation, not just at, you know, take-home pay. We should be looking at things like pensions, as well. I mean, you know, I mean, for a long time there have been early retirement programs for teachers. So, I mean, typically teachers retired at early ages than people in other professions. So they are collecting a pension longer. I mean, we can argue about whether that's good or bad, but I think it's something we should keep in mind.

  • 10:56:40


  • 10:56:41

    ALDEMANYeah, I want to challenge the notion that a pension is necessarily great. We do a lot of work on this at our website, And pensions are expensive for everybody, but they only work well for those who stay in their system for a full career. And there's only a fraction of teachers that actually stay for that 25, 30-year career when they're receiving the actual best benefits from the pension system.

  • 10:57:01

    REHMWell, as you've heard, there's a great deal to talk about. I wish we had about six more hours. Chad Aldeman, Anthony Carnevale, Stephen Sawchuck and Linda Darling-Hammond, thank you all so much.

  • 10:57:18


  • 10:57:18

    ALDEMANThank you.

  • 10:57:19


  • 10:57:20

    REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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