Men accounted for less than one-fourth of all teachers in 2006, according to statistics released recently by the National Education Association (NEA), and there is little indication of that figure changing anytime soon, writes Tamar Snyder at MenTeach.
Kansas and Oregon boast the largest percentages of male teachers, at 33 percent and 31 percent, while Mississippi and Arkansas have the lowest percentage, with males making up just under 18 percent of the teachers in those states.
"We're experiencing a significant male-teacher shortage," confirms Reg Weaver, president of the NEA. The shortage is particularly acute in early-childhood and lower grades, and the reason is partly pay related.
"Teachers in elementary school typically don't make as much money as teachers in high school do," Weaver says. "More than 50 percent of male teachers are at the high school level."
Research conducted by MenTeach, a nonprofit organization that promotes the recruitment of male teachers, suggests that low status and pay deter males from entering education.
"If you started paying teachers $150,000 per year, you'd see a lot of guys going into the field," admits Bryan Nelson, founder of MenTeach.
According to MenTeach, other key reasons for the shortage could be the stereotype that teaching is "women's work," as well as possible fears of lawsuits around accusations of sexual abuse of children.
To attract more male teachers, heavy recruiting at the university level is necessary, says Steve Peha, president of education consultants Teaching That Makes Sense.
"We won't see more male teachers if we don't see more young men pursuing teaching degrees," he notes.
Research studies focusing on whether male teachers help boys learn better have provided contradictory results.
"A lot of female teachers would come to me if they had a disciplinary problem — mainly with boys — and ask me to handle it," says Alan Flory, a retired special education teacher with twenty-eight years of experience. "I didn't particularly appreciate it, but I did it."
Meg Rayner at MenTeach writes that in Australia there is a call for more male teachers in classrooms, where people are concerned that boys are lacking male role models as Male teachers make up just one-fifth of the teaching population in Victorian state schools.
The Government currently has four targeted teacher recruitment programs, the Maths and Science Scholarship, Teaching Scholarship Scheme, Teach For Australia and the Career Change Program.
So far, the initiatives have been successful in attracting male teachers and 45.2 per cent of new teachers appointed under these programs in 2009 and 2010 were male.
"Male teachers are crucial role models for school-aged children and I urge all men to consider teaching as a career-path," Education minister Bronwyn Pike said.
"Both men and women make wonderful teachers – but I recognise the importance of children having both male and female role models at school."