Where Have All Our Math Teachers Gone?

There are about 3.6 million public school teachers working in secondary schools in 90,000 public schools districts across 50 states. Almost 500,000 are classified as math and science teachers.

A new analysis by Richard Ingersoll in the American Educational Research Journal (September 2019)tracked teacher workforce for 20 years and suggested that retaining our present educators is the problem not recruiting new teachers. “In the same year that (President) Bush called for recruiting 30,000 STEM teachers, we had 26,000 quit. That’s a terrible waste of talent. ”Turnover of educators isn’t any higher for STEM subjects. For math teachers, the lack of classroom autonomy, weak professional development and     student discipline are the primary reason that causes them to leave. Professional development and student discipline are the primary reasons that science teachers leave. Low salaries are consistently mentioned by both groups. The paper reports that “high poverty, high minority and urban public schools have the highest mathematics and science turnover levels. But it is poor working conditions not bad students that contribute to high mobility says Ingersoll. “Teachers aren’t fleeing poor kids. They are fleeing poor jobs.”

According to research, most new jobs in America will be in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject areas. America cannot produce high performing graduates in STEM subjects unless we have highly effective educators in school classrooms and front offices.

The results of the latest PISA test scores (2018)  by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.(OECD) reported the United States scores in mathematics have gone down. We are now the 31st lowest/highest performing math country below Hungary but above Belarus and Malta. “Overall, America’s 15-year-olds scored slightly above students from peer nations in reading, but below the middle of the pack in mathematics (NY Times, 12/3/2019)  and the gap between the high performing American students and the low performing is widening.

My new book, Who Will Teach The Children? Recruiting, Retaining & Refreshing Highly Effective Educators (available from Amazon) proposes solutions to slow the educational exodus.