A new report released by ACT has found that the number of high school graduates who are interested in going on to become educators is continuing to decline, as the five-year trends show fewer than 88,000 of the 1.9 million students who take the ACT expressed interest in majoring in education, with fewer than 3,700 indicating an interest in math or science education.
ACT has conducted research in the area of college and career readiness since 1959, releasing an annual report each August that looks into the achievements of ACT-tested graduates in comparison to college readiness.
The report, “The Condition of Future Educators 2015,” looks specifically at students who have expressed interest in continuing on in the field of education. For the purposes of the study, education majors were placed into four separate categories such as administration and student services, which includes non-teaching education majors like counselors, curriculum, and administration. Teacher education is considered to be the single major considered by those who are interested in the profession but have not yet determined a student population or subject area to focus on.
Meanwhile, teacher education with a specific student population includes those who have decided on a specific type of student they would like to serve, such as early childhood or postsecondary education. The final category is teacher education with a specific subject for those focusing on one type of subject, such as art education, foreign language, or math.
Findings suggest the interest in becoming an educator is waning among graduates.
The authors state that in combination with the current teacher shortage, the low interest does not bolster hopes. Figures from the National Center for Education Statistics show the total number of elementary and secondary teaching positions in need of being filled in the country is expected to increase by 14% between 2010 and 2021. Combined with the number of “baby boomer” teachers expected to retire, the authors call the situation “sobering.”
The report also found that those students who are interested in becoming teachers have lower-than-average achievement levels, particularly in STEM subjects, as the number of future educators who meet the ACT College and Career Readiness Benchmarks are lower than the national average for every subject except for English.
In addition, not many males are showing interest in becoming teachers, as 75% of those who reported interest were female. There was also not much diversity among those interested, with slightly more than 70% being white.
The authors suggest that in order to correct this situation, high-achieving college students who are uncertain about what they would like to do upon graduation be recruited by schools to become teachers. They say that improvements to educator benefits, including an increase to starting salaries that is more comparable to entry-level salaries for college graduates in other fields, would not only attract new teachers, but would retain quality educators.