Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 23, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Teacher Shortage


  • Ron Marx, Dean of the University of Arizona College of Education, talks about the report his college has prepared for the upcoming Arizona Town Hall. He also discusses some of the challenges Town Hall participants face as they try to recommend ways Arizona can best recruit and retain quality teachers.
Guests:
  • Ron Marx - Dean, University of Arizona College of Education
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Arizona town hall meets in Prescott next week to recommend ways to attract and retain more teachers. Town hall participants already received a background report prepared by the University of Arizona's College of Education. Earlier this week, I spoke with the dean of the college about the report and some of the issues it covers. And thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
More than happy to.

Ted Simons:
We have the Arizona town hall coming up. This report now, how is this going to prepare and recruit and retain teachers?



Ron Marx, Ph.D:
Well, the topic of the town hall is the schools teach our children. And of course preparing teachers, recruiting them and retake them is all about how we get them and how we keep them. So the report is a background document tone able the participants of the town hall to get smart about those issues in advance of having their debates.

Ted Simons:
Let's get some background information here. Do we have enough teachers in Arizona?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
Well, it depends on how one defines that. We always have shortages of teachers, particularly in certain areas, special education, teaching language learners, mathematics, science and a couple other areas like that. We always have shortages in those areas, it doesn't seem to matter what we do. About half the teachers in the state who are hired in any given year are prepared in the state's universities and the teacher preparation program in the state. That means we need to get other people from other areas.

Ted Simons:
The teachers that we do have, do you think and does the report show that they are sufficiently qualified?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
Yes. With some minor changes to that. They are well-qualified. About 95 or 97%, depending on the area are highly qualified. And again there's certain areas, mathematics, science, special ed where we have those challenges.

Ted Simons:
I want to get back to some other aspects of this. You've gone to math and science a couple times already. Maybe the lack of folks, the lack of qualified folks, how do you fix it? What do you do to recruit some people who may have an expertise there or an interest in those areas to get them into classrooms?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
One of them is making it attractive. We have some policies in the state and federally to make it more attractive. There's a new federal program called the Teach Grant which will enable people who want to be teachers to get about $4,000 a year through their undergraduate career in order to pay for some of the college costs. They'll have to teach in schools and high needs schools, high poverty schools for four years in order to get those loans converted to grants. So there are some upfront ways of doing it. Tuition deferments and scholarship programs, but one of the big issues is quality of life. It's working conditions, its salary. We're competing with the private sector. A person with a B.S.C.. in a science discipline over a lifetime of work, if they go into education they'll be earning about 40% of the total lifetime salary of the same person with the same qualifications working in science and industry. So we have some real issues and real challenges there.

Ted Simons:
Also you mentioned kind of referred to this but the fact that some of the rural areas, some of the low-income areas, it's tough enough to get teachers there but teachers that specialize in science and math and special ed., that must be more difficult.

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
It is more difficult. For some of the science areas there aren't going to be enough students in those schools to offer the specialized courses like A.P. courses in math and chemistry. There might be too few students to create a critical math to want to motivate a teacher to teach there. Also because of mobility issues we find that teachers who are more likely to stay in those kinds of positions come from those kinds of communities in the first place or even those communities. So there are efforts in the state to grow your own, if you will, to try to have local teacher preparation program.

Ted Simons:
You bring that up, grow your own. what kind of efforts are being taken and what kind of plans I guess are being pushed forward to attract teachers from other parts of the country to get them out here?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
Well, our districts go around the country and recruit. That's one thing that happens. And they recruit in areas like the Midwest. Particularly Michigan, where there's an oversupply of teachers. There are teacher preparation programs in Michigan produce far more teachers than they can employ in the Michigan economy. So our people go out and get a lot of talent to Arizona. For them to come here.

Ted Simons:
So there are programs in the works, and those efforts are being --

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
Oh, yes. All of our bigger districts. I don't know about the smaller districts. The bigger districts send their recruiters all over our place. Even our place at the University of Arizona we produce about 350 or 400 teachers a year and we put on recruitment fairs and people come from other areas of the country, Nevada, for example, to recruit our teachers, southern California. So the labor market in education and teaching it is a national labor market. People are prepared and certified in a state, but the market is national.

Ted Simons:
2008 quality counts report. Arizona got a d plus.

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
Mm-hmm.

Ted Simons:
Why and what could be done to change that?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
Well, part of it is our teacher salaries which are not really strong. I'm recruiting a faculty member who has a husband who is a classroom teacher, and he's making about 58 or $60,000 a year as a third grade teacher where he is right now. If he came out here, he wouldn't be able to make that salary because usually when you bring people in they don't come at a high salary. So those are some of the challenges that we face.

Ted Simons:
Teacher attraction, aging population of teachers. Factors? Problems?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
The aging one isn't so much. It's really the retention northwesterly their career. We lose about 8 to 10% of the teachers every year, so roughly 45 or 50% of the new teachers are no longer teaching after five years. Part of that is just the normal wear and tear on people. They decide they want to do something else. Most elementary teachers are women. They start families. Some of these are just normal things that happen in the course of life. But part of it, at least a third of the loss of the teachers in the state, are because of working conditions, salaries, leadership in the schools which is also an important issue.

Ted Simons;
Are there efforts to try to get some of these inactive teachers back in the mix?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
There are efforts locally, but there's no statewide effort. And we should really consider that.

Ted Simons:
Yeah. Adjunct teachers, folks who are not necessarily going to education school and all this kind of business but know enough to where they think they could be a pretty good teacher. What are your thoughts on that?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
I just came from the governor's office and had a very spirited debate about this very issue with the governor's p-20 council. It's a very hot issue. There might be some places in our schools where that might work. I doubt that it will be a kind of program that will solve any fundamental problems because businesses might loan people or they might come in for a course or two. They might be effective. But there's really quite more to teaching than just presenting your subject matter. There's a specialized professional knowledge that's required of teachers, and these folks will not have it. We have at the university adjunct instructors, at community colleges. But that's a very small, select group of folks who are in classes. That's not the broad range of children you have in school with E.L.L. issues, special education issues, the technical issues of assessment which are really quite important for teachers to know are not going to be mastered by these folks. So there is a limited professional knowledge they'll have. Then in order to mentor them and supervise them you have to take people in the school. So they're a real cost to the school to bring an add adjunct into their building.

Ted Simons:
I can hear critics saying, yes, but we're getting d pluses there, failing marks there, ranked 49 out of 50 whatever on certain things, let's try something new, something different.

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
We definitely need to try different things and in you things. I have no quarrel with that -- quarrel with that. I just don't think the adjunct program is the answer.

Ted Simons:
The biggest challenge, if this room were full of teachers. What would be their biggest challenge?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
One would be working conditions. What I mean by working conditions, class size, enough time for planning, sufficient and high-quality professional development for their work throughout their career, decent salaries that recognize their work. And I think one thing that we can do as a community, as a state, is to support our schools and our teachers. The incessant harping on the quality of education in the long haul dissuades people from going into this field.

Ted Simons:
And the last question, is Arizona so young, so dynamic, so diverse for better or worse in all of these things, I mean, we both come from different areas of the country where education is more established, it's maybe even thought of more highly in certain communities than others. Is this just a factor in Arizona of maturing?

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
It might be, but we'd better mature in the right way. So we still have to guide our culture, guide our public discourse about these issues in the right way.

Ted Simons:
All right. Hey, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Ron Marx, Ph.D:
You're welcome.

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