High achievers don’t want to be teachers, reports Madeline Will for Education Week Teacher. “Around the world, students who want to go into teaching tend to have poorer math and reading skills than students who plan to work as professionals outside of teaching,” according to a new analysis of 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data.
In the U.S. 52 percent of 15-year-olds expected to work in professions that require a university degree; 4 percent of students expected to work as teachers.
That jibes with a 2016 ACT survey, which found that 4 percent of the class of 2015 planned to become teachers, counselors, or administrators, writes Will. “The students who took the ACT and said they aspired to be educators were particularly weak in math and science.”
Increasing teacher pay may motivate low- or middle-achieving students, said Seong Won Han, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy at the University at Buffalo and one of the authors of the report. However, “teacher salary might not be enough incentive to recruit high-achieving students to the teaching profession.”
Students with strong math skills have many professional options, she said. Improving the status of teaching may be more important than pay. “In this country, teaching is not highly valued.”
Only 34 percent of teachers in the United States think that the teaching profession is valued in society, according to OECD data. That is lower than other countries, Han said—like Singapore, where 68 percent of teachers said their profession was valued.
A recent report by education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond found that high-performing countries, including Singapore and Finland, have a high social regard for teaching and, in turn, are able to recruit, develop, and support high-quality teachers. . . . Finnish students who expect to be teachers have higher reading scores than Finnish students who want to work in another profession, and there is no difference between the two groups’ math scores.
In the U.S., “raising salary and reducing work hours” is part of the solution, said Han. “But that’s not enough to change students’ teaching career expectations.”
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