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Are There Too Few Teachers, Or Too Few Good Ones?

For a number of reasons, it appears that fewer of our best and brightest young people are becoming teachers. Enrollment in teacher prep programs — both short-term ones like Teach for America and the more traditional college education majors — are on the decline. TFA has experienced a 21 percent decline in applications since 2013; federal Title II data on teacher prep programs shows a 31 percent decline in enrollment since 2008; and enrollment in graduate education programs has decreased by about 3 percent annually since 2008. These application and enrollment drops have been well documented by the likes of the New York Times, NPR and Education Weekly.

The drop could be a holdover from the recession in two ways. First, now that the economy is rebounding, job seekers are on the hunt for more lucrative options. (According to the National Education Association, the national average for a starting teacher salary in 2012-13 was $36,141.) Second, education budget cuts nationwide, both during and after the recession, left a bad taste in many prospective teachers’ mouths.