STEM Teachers - Recruiting and Retaining

Sunday, November 20, 2011 - 2:15pm

Five years ago, The New York Times dissected STEM education and realized, yet again, that America was falling well short in preparing its teachers to lead successful, STEM-driven curricula. Even today, recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers is a problem that confounds the entire educational community. 

The national debate on teacher preparation, especially within the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, was brought into clear focus by The New York Times education reporter Sam Dillon in August 2007. In his article, “With Turnover High, Schools Fight for Teachers,” Dillon looked at the trouble that school districts across America—from Kansas to New York City, Los Angeles to North Carolina—had in recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers.

It was a problem with a big price tag. Earlier that year, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reported that teacher turnover was costing school districts upward of $7 billion every year.

The commission’s president, Thomas G. Carroll, told Dillon the issue wasn’t retirement. “Our teacher preparation system can accommodate the retirement rate,” he said. “The problem is that our schools are like a bucket with holes in the bottom, and we keep pouring in teachers.”

The emphasis on STEM education created an additional burden. No Child Left Behind required that every classroom be led by a qualified teacher. What was already a big problem for high-poverty schools had become an even greater challenge. “We had schools where we didn’t have a single certified math teacher,” said Guilford County, N.C. superintendent Terry Grier. “We needed an [$10,000] incentive, because we couldn’t convince teachers to go to these schools without one.”  

Research Focus: 
Science, Technology, Arts and Math Teaching Practices
Field of Expertise: 
Science/Technology/Engineering and Arts