America's teachers are getting greyer. Even as enrolment is increasing astronomically, 40 per cent of US state school teachers plan to retire or otherwise leave the profession in the next seven years, according to the federal government's department of education, writes Jon Marcus.
The number of elementary and secondary students reached a record 51.7 million this autumn, and is expected to climb to nearly 56 million by 2005. That means the number of teachers will have to increase from 2.8 million to a projected 3.3 million during that time, even as more than a million teachers quit.
A teacher shortage already has forced some school districts to hire uncertified staff. A survey released this year showed a particularly pressing need for maths, science, special education and language instructors.
And interest in the profession appears to be on the rise. A non-profit organisation called Recruiting New Teachers is receiving more than 100, 000 inquiries a year from people interested in education jobs. And an annual survey of 240,000 entering university and college students conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles showed the highest level of interest in teaching careers since the early 1970s.