Rural teacher shortage

by Denver Dad

I thought of the totebaggers who live in rural areas and are dissatisfied with their schools when I saw this in the Denver Post. It lays out the reasons for the rural teacher shortage pretty nicely, but the question remains of what to do about it.

Colorado’s teacher shortage is a “crisis” that’s getting worse, educators say

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172 thoughts on “Rural teacher shortage

  1. The shortage of math, science, and special ed teachers is an example I use every semester in the classroom. This shortage occurs through a combination of govt’s monopsony power in the labor market (aided and abetted, ironically, by many/most teachers in their opposition to charters and vouchers) and the unions’ penchant for equality and seniority over market value and quality. To note, it’s easy to fix the surplus of english, history, and health– as well as the shortage of M, S, and SE– if you allow differential wages by field.

    Another alternative– and something esp. relevant for the rural and inner city angles– is to have loan forgiveness for those who teach in less desirable areas. (See also: medical and dental school / grads.)

  2. The pay is a huge part of the problem, especially when you consider that to become a teacher, someone will likely have student loans and, if (s)he has children, childcare expenses. Other states pay their teachers much better than Colorado does. I wonder if the U.S. will ever develop a more egalitarian system of national education funding.

  3. what Eric said….the quick short answer is to raise wages for hard to fill specialties.

    Politically, I don’t know….I would support higher taxes for higher teacher wages if that was coupled with the elimination of tenure and some sort of voucher program that allowed parents to send their kids to the school that fits the kids needs.

    Just higher wages for the same system…um no

  4. How low is the cost of living in rural Colorado if any competent person would take a job that paid $22K per year?

  5. Getting any variety of professionals into rural areas is getting harder and getting them to stay any length of time is worse. I think the article hit the nail on the head with it being a combination of pay and social isolation for younger people.

    Teacher sharing is hard because of the distances to travel and the distruption of their home life, unless there is a larger core city that they can commute out from. A friend of mine had direct experience with this. When she graduated, several rural districts were heavily recruiting. One district she talked to proposed a set up where the “placement” was technically in the biggest city, but then you would commute between 3 schools working fewer and slightly odder hours, for full time pay. The position wanted you to commute Monday/ Wednesday to school 1, which was the farthest away 1.25 hours, but let you start at 10 am and work until 5 pm, then Tuesday/Thursday commute to school 2, about an 1 hour away, working 9:30 – 4:30, then Friday you worked in the town you lived in from 7:30 – 4:30 and could be from home as all the “planning/grading” time was consolidated into Friday or at a school if you needed to make copies or use other equipment, etc. In addition, they would pay a monthly mileage stipend. The “deal” was, they were paying you the time and the “gas” for the longer commutes. But, what my friend found their offer to be fairly competitive, but couldn’t resolve her familly’s child care needs around a wonky schedule in a town with limited options.

    As far as teaching being valued or not, I think many people do value it given their choices for private school or going to charter schools. However, I don’t know if it is a culture of teachers or the administration, but some of what they do is like shooting themselves in the foot.

  6. $22K/yr? You’ve got to be kidding me. For someone with a college degree? You’d be better off going to work at McDonald’s or Home Depot directly out of HS.

  7. coupled with the elimination of tenure

    There is no tenure in Texas but I bet if you were living on a ranch in rural Texas vs. rural CA, you wouldn’t find the public schools any more to your liking.

  8. There is no tenure in Texas but I bet if you were living on a ranch in rural Texas vs. rural CA, you wouldn’t find the public schools any more to your liking.

    Maybe, but as a taxpayer who has to face consequences if I ignore regulations, I’d like to see employees who don’t show up to work and ignore the Ed Code fired.

  9. I don’t know that vouchers is the answer. Let’s be honest. With vouchers you typically lose transportation to your school of choice. This may not be as big a deal in places with good public transportation either for parents to accompany kids and then get to work or for older kids to take on their own. But, in places where the public transportation is poor or non-existent, vouchers are not truly viable to the lower income families. These are the kids that often are further behind in school, live in less safe neighborhoods, have less parental support/involvement at home, and have less regular attendance at school. Without some sort of safe guards, vouchers leave these kids even farther behind. The teachers don’t want these jobs because the way they are judged assumes they have a majority of kids who enter their classroom on grade level.

  10. Vouchers would not be expected to help much if at all with rural settings. But broadly, they would help teachers by giving them access to many different employers– and thus, a competitive labor market that could not exploit them.

  11. This weekend people marched for science all over the globe. One constant I heard from colleagues was that people felt they had to justify their existence and their pay. It struck me that teachers have had to do the same thing for years. Society blames teachers for pretty much every ill now. Why would you want to work in a field like that? Where parents blame you because their child isn’t a star? Where the town blames you for “costing too much” when you want healthcare coverage or a raise? Where your pay and funding for your classroom (or school) is tied to how well your entire class does on a standardized test?

    I would find it very difficult to teach in public education because of those issues. And I probably am not a good teacher. That’s something else people forget – not everyone can teach. It’s not that easy.

  12. Politically I don’t know what the solution is. Market salaries would help, but around here that means that the gym teacher would be paid less than the physics teacher and that won’t fly.

    I foresee more online instruction for rural areas. This is a general trend anyway and could address shortages in some subjects.

    “The teachers don’t want these jobs because the way they are judged assumes they have a majority of kids who enter their classroom on grade level.”

    If they agreed to standardized testing they would be judged by the increase in achievement levels, which takes into account students’ beginning grade levels.

  13. I think on-line education is a great solution for good students in rural areas but I don’t think on-line education works well for poor students. They often need a teacher who can come alongside them and figure out what they’re missing, as well as someone who can help them stay on task.

  14. Some of the districts referenced in the article are too small to be viable. One school was had 139 students, another had 209. That simply isn’t enough student revenue to fund a school. If the school district is rehabbing classrooms to turn them into apartments…..Surely it would be easier just to raise pay and so that teachers could choose market rate housing.

    In my area, each grade has between 100-150 students per grade, and there are several school districts in the county. There is still the issue about twentysomething loneliness. Affordable new family homes are not as attractive to people still trying to find a partner.

    As for respect for teaching….that will never occur while there is tenure. The tenure system trades off pay and respect for never having to worry about your job performance.

  15. “This weekend people marched for science all over the globe. One constant I heard from colleagues was that people felt they had to justify their existence and their pay.”

    Everybody has to justify their job and pay all the time.

  16. Sure higher salaries will help initially recruit, but they’ll eventually leave if they are not from the area Young teachers want to live near other young people unless they are from the rural area and value the experience of living there.

  17. “Everybody has to justify their job and pay all the time.”

    Really – do people outside of your field question your job and your pay rate? Teachers deal with that all the time. And scientists are now feeling the same with the cuts to federal funding looming. Today’s topic questions teacher shortages – and a big reason for people to not be a teacher is how micromanaged they are. Down to the public telling them they make too much for what they do.

  18. I think a lot of jobs that require tax payer support often have to justify their pay.

  19. Really – do people outside of your field question your job and your pay rate?

    I farm, There is constant bashing about whether we grow appropriate crops (almonds). If we make too much money (greedy farmers). And the constant theme that we are trying to poison our customers.

  20. I started med school thinking that I would go to work in a rural environment. There is some overlap in the reasons that docs don’t go to more rural areas. For me, it was exposure to an urban area – even the most rural of schools are in towns with 5-digit populations, and I doubt there is a residency in a community with less than 100,000. My formative adult years (18-30) were in places that were big, busy and full of college educated people. It was hard to imagine going from that to someplace without interesting restaurants, book stores, theaters, etc. College and grad school create a floor expectation from what you may want in a community. Of course I realize that there are college educated people in rural areas – but perhaps harder to find and harder to integrate with.

    Some basic facts about urban, rural differences: https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-12-08/in-americas-rural-urban-divide-age-earnings-and-education-are-prominent

  21. Really – do people outside of your field question your job and your pay rate?

    I make too much money, get kickbacks from pharmaceuticals/vaccines/devices (Oh! I wish this could happen just once), spread infection, waste resources, don’t empathize enough, don’t listen enough, don’t see patients fast enough and personally make enough mistakes equivalent to a 747 going down every week.

  22. “I think on-line education is a great solution for good students in rural areas but I don’t think on-line education works well for poor students”

    Yes, that’s what I’ve read. Maybe a real person, a proctor or guide of some type, in the classroom would make a difference.

    I think employees in the public sector should expect their jobs and pay to be scrutinized.

  23. “they would help teachers by giving them access to many different employers– and thus, a competitive labor market that could not exploit them.”

    Well, the teachers don’t exactly seem to be stuck — they are voting with their feet. So not sure how vouchers would help solve the crisis. Is the theory that with even more competition, states would raise teacher pay? That doesn’t seem to be working now; one would think that teachers with STEM backgrounds would have the most alternative options, and the data suggest that those teachers are in fact taking advantage of those options, and yet CO continues to offer rural STEM teachers $22K/yr. and then wonder why they don’t have any takers. So not sure how more non-public schools hiring away the few teachers that do exist is going to make it better.

  24. “Really – do people outside of your field question your job and your pay rate?”

    With respect to my job as an attorney — all of the time.

    But teachers, like government-funded scientists and researchers, are working for us, and so therefore should not object to taxpayer oversight.

  25. The comment about two few kids to make up a district. It is often more about geography. How far is too far to drive? We had one school district busing kids 90 miles one way from a bus stop that some of them drove 30 miles or more from home to get to. Yes, less than 100 kids K-12, but many dropped out in high school for having a 3-4 hour round trip to school. Make the district bigger geography wise hurts these kids even more.

  26. “CO continues to offer rural STEM teachers $22K/yr. and then wonder why they don’t have any takers. ”

    The idea behind vouchers is to give the parents/kids some more market power. If they don’t have the votes to induce CO to offer high enough pay to hire teachers, then they can use the voucher (and whatever of their own funds) to find a school that is interested in hiring teachers and providing educational services.

  27. The comment about two few kids to make up a district. It is often more about geography. How far is too far to drive? We had one school district busing kids 90 miles one way from a bus stop that some of them drove 30 miles or more from home to get to. Yes, less than 100 kids K-12, but many dropped out in high school for having a 3-4 hour round trip to school. Make the district bigger geography wise hurts these kids even more.

    In that case, maybe an old fashioned boarding school is the answer. A few generations ago, it was relatively common that kids would live in town during the week and go to school, because it wasn’t feasible for them to commute every day.

  28. My formative adult years (18-30) were in places that were big, busy and full of college educated people. It was hard to imagine going from that to someplace without interesting restaurants, book stores, theaters, etc

    I think once you learn how to adult, it can be difficult to have to learn how to adult in a different way. I grew up in a rural area, spent my 18-30 years in, if not urban, at least cities, and then went back to rural. I prefer rural, but sometimes it would be nice to have a grocery store or any other service five minutes away.

  29. “If they don’t have the votes to induce CO to offer high enough pay to hire teachers, then they can use the voucher (and whatever of their own funds) to find a school that is interested in hiring teachers and providing educational services.”

    Which will not be located in rural areas, where there are by definition insufficient students to support establishment of a new school.

    As far as I see, vouchers = more competition for existing teachers = fewer teachers serving rural students + no alternatives for those kids = rural kids are even worse off than they are now.

  30. I think the need for vouchers depends on if on-line options exist through the school without vouchers. I don’t see a need for vouchers if on-line course options exist. Otherwise, a voucher may be your only way to take an [on-line] AP class.

  31. A boarding school for middle school and up may not be a bad alternative, but I am not sure I see many people sending their kindergartener to boarding school. In some places technology can help, but doesn’t provide a complete answer.

    At what point does it matter that no one lives in a rural area?

  32. At what point does it matter that no one lives in a rural area?

    That is the question. We’ve subsidized rural areas for a long time with electrification, telephone, mail, healthcare, internet service, etc. If there is a need for these areas to be populated then I would say state or federal funding is the answer. If there is no need for these areas to be populated then we should allow nature to take its course.

  33. There is constant bashing about whether we grow appropriate crops (almonds). If we make too much money (greedy farmers). And the constant theme that we are trying to poison our customers.

    Really? I’ve never heard any of that. When I’ve heard people talking about how much farmers make (which isn’t very often), it’s always in the context of how to help support the family farmers so they can stay in business competing against the big corporations.

  34. The idea behind vouchers is to give the parents/kids some more market power. If they don’t have the votes to induce CO to offer high enough pay to hire teachers, then they can use the voucher (and whatever of their own funds) to find a school that is interested in hiring teachers and providing educational services.

    Colorado already has school choice – you can go to any public school in the state provided there is space and, the big caveat, you provide your own transportation. There isn’t enough of a population in these areas to have alternative options.

  35. “Getting any variety of professionals into rural areas is getting harder and getting them to stay any length of time is worse. ”

    Yes, parts of our state have similar problems with physicians, and especially certain specialties.

  36. “Market salaries would help, but around here that means that the gym teacher would be paid less than the physics teacher and that won’t fly.”

    Why wouldn’t that fly?

    Aren’t teacher salaries already differentiated by amount of education/degrees, certifications, and experience? This would just be more differentiation added on top of that.

  37. Yes, parts of our state have similar problems with physicians, and especially certain specialties.

    I would have thought there’d be way more doctors looking to live and work in HI than there were jobs for them.

  38. I’m wondering about why there’s such a focus on the rural setting not being attractive to young teachers. OK, if that’s the case, why not recruit teachers who aren’t young?

    They could also be creative in looking for retirees, especially relatively young retirees, to teach one or two classes, e.g., the retired engineer who’s taken 7 math classes and 4 physics classes in college, might teach a couple HS level classes.

  39. The DOE has long had issues getting all the jobs filled in our more rural schools too, and has turned to Teach for America in the past, which has its own problems (constant turnover of inexperienced teachers).

    Rhett, plenty of people would say they’d love to come work in HI, but if it becomes a serious possibility they start to realize how far away they’d be from family and current friends, and then if they do come here they’re surprised by the cost of living, and they get rock fever, and some of them find the cultural adjustment tough. So while the paradise factor probably helps, it’s not as powerful a draw as you might think when you’re talking moving here rather than just visiting here.

  40. “I would have thought there’d be way more doctors looking to live and work in HI than there were jobs for them.”

    Why?

    We have a physician shortage in general, but it’s especially bad in some rural areas. And as discussed recently, there’s a shortage of physicians accepting medicare and medicaid patients.

  41. There was a weird news story from a year or so ago where the Hawaii DOE’s annual mainland recruitment drive had somehow gone viral but gotten detached from the required qualifications, so there were apparently articles all over the net about how Hawaii would pay you to move there and give you a job, with the result that applications were coming in from non-teachers, many not even U.S. citizens/residents, all over the world. E.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teaching-in-hawaii_us_571ff1ede4b01a5ebde3e8d0

  42. Rhett –
    Our HI friends may have a more detailed take, but my view is that outside of the broad Honolulu metro (roughly south of the east-west line drawn by Interstates H1 & H3) plus maybe Hilo (Big Island) and Kihei+Kahului on Maui, HI is pretty damn remote.

  43. Fred, that’s roughly accurate (I’d add in some bedroom communities on Oahu and Kailua-Kona), but the larger thing for those without family here is probably that 2500 miles between us and the mainland U.S. You know how in college talk, people often mention a distance of maybe 500-1000 miles as being too far from home? Well, no one is driving home from HI to spend a long weekend with family in another state.

  44. Well, no one is driving home from HI to spend a long weekend with family in another state.

    Wouldn’t they usually be the ones coming to visit you?

  45. Most people in places I’ve lived never visit family that moves away. Time, cost and fear of travel are all factors.

    I remember visiting Mr WCE’s grandmother in South Dakota and talking to someone around my age who asked me about flying to South Dakota. He had driven to Nebraska, part of North Dakota and Wyoming but that was the extent of his lifetime travel. If his kid moves to Hawaii, he won’t be visiting.

  46. Back to the rural issue: I think another problem is that a lot of these rural areas are also not well off economically. So the school facilities may not be great, the students may have issues aside from their education, etc. So it is similar to the problems of recruiting for teaching positions in poor urban areas, except that the teachers can’t even go see a new movie or get a Starbucks.

  47. If we make too much money (greedy farmers).

    Never, ever heard anyone say that. For decades, teachers and farmers were among the groups that you had to speak of with saccharine reverence, bowing your head and your eyes maybe glistening with tears. Now I think only the military gets that treatment, and you have to tell some 20-year-old bozo whose sole job for 2.5 years was opening the gate at Ft. Carson “Thank you for your service” while trying to look earnest and sincere. Once defined-benefit pensions got taken away from everyone in the private sector, everyone in the public sector was suddenly a target for white-hot fury. And the subsidies for farmers started getting the hairy eyeball from the public as well. But no one calls family-farm owners “greedy.”

  48. It’s a neat idea that empty nest professionals would move to rural areas without much opportunity and become teachers. I don’t see that happening in any profession. It seems people in their 40s and 50s are pretty well rooted and are not going to start a fresh new life unless there is a big pull (weather, grandkids, etc.). Small-town Colorado doesn’t have nearly enough going for it to pull someone out from a well-established life.

  49. One of the things that drove me to industry from teaching at a public university was constantly hearing how we were ;lazy greedy state employees, when the reality was that we were all burning out from overwork. The kicker was that the state legislature refused to fund our negotiated salary increases for several years running. We negotiated with the state in good faith, but it turned out they didn’t have to adhere to any of it. After a few years of that, virtually everyone who could left my department even though we all loved the job and the students.

    There is a big difference between taxpayer oversight, which is of course fair, and being told constantly that you are lazy and greedy and incompetent to boot.

  50. Yeah, I don’t see where those retired engineers would be coming from. Someone who is used to life in a town, with a mall and a movie theater and access to good doctors is not going to pick up and move to Appalachia. And driving long distances on possibly bad roads becomes more of an issue when you hit your 60’s.

  51. Rhett, you grossly overestimate the importance of climate for most people when choosing where to live. I know a lot of people who live in places like New England and the upper Midwest who complain constantly about how much they can’t stand the winters etc. When you ask them why they don’t move, they have a list of good reasons why they don’t, usually starting with proximity to family.

  52. Also, if a young single or an empty-nest couple with teaching qualifications want to be footloose and try living and working in different places, there are the DOD schools and the international schools to look at — those often come with tax advantages too — and you can really try out some varied and interesting places. So to the extent that your rural schools could sell the “it’ll be an interesting experience” angle, they’ve got competition.

  53. The market is tough for certain teachers in metro NY burbs, so I can’t even imagine how hard it is to get teachers for the rural schools. I am the parent representative for the interviews that are being held in my district for teachers and administrators in the middle school. I’ve learned A LOT (for a finance person) about hiring for teachers and administrators because I’ve been interviewing candidates with the school staff for over two years. They couldn’t fill a position for a Chemistry teacher in our HS for almost three months when the existing teacher became ill, and couldn’t return to work. A month later, the teacher for AP math and Algebra had ato take a 3 month medical leave of absence. It took them almost a month to find someone to teach her classes, but they finally found someone that was qualified. They currently have an exemption from NY state to allow the computer science teacher to teach two math sections even though he is not certified in math because it saves money, but it was also impossible to find anyone that was certified to teach both subjects. They were barely able to hire a new teacher to teach 8th grade science and HS Earth Science to 8th graders because every candidate they tried to hire was scooped up in one day by another district. The reverse is true for other subjects because there seems to be a glut of certified English and Social Studies teachers. An 8th grade social studies teacher just told them she is taking a leave for next year, and they got 200 resumes in a week. They told me that the market is saturated with amazing English and Social Studies teachers, but they have a VERY hard time finding science, math and foreign language teachers. We are fortunate that the district is so close to NYC because over 80% of the candidates for any open position are trying to get out of the city and into a surburban district. The working conditions are generally better for the staff. The salaries and benefits are similar because the city has a strong union that fights for fair wages and benefits, but the intangibles such as a safe neighborhood, involved parents, and “extras” provided by fundraising are very different than NYC.

  54. I think a lot of people go to school in the Northeast and then find jobs, settling down there. We wouldn’t have moved but my DD got ill, there was no flexibility then and both our commutes were taking a toll. If we had family or a SAHP or a flexible job we wouldn’t have moved.

  55. “It’s a neat idea that empty nest professionals would move to rural areas without much opportunity and become teachers. I don’t see that happening in any profession. It seems people in their 40s and 50s are pretty well rooted and are not going to start a fresh new life unless there is a big pull (weather, grandkids, etc.)”

    I’ve known quite a few engineers who picked up and moved from SV, cashing out on the value of their homes, and moved to low COA areas.

    Many of them were in their early 30s and starting families, and the moves facilitated people becoming SAHPs. I could see some of the SAHPs teaching a class or two when their kids started school and did not require full-time SAHPs, especially if they saw that improving the quality of their kids’ schools.

    Many others moved when they became empty nesters.

  56. I’m not sure Eastern Colorado is that much better than the Dakotas, WCE.

  57. “You know how in college talk, people often mention a distance of maybe 500-1000 miles as being too far from home? ”

    Schools in the Portland, Seattle, SoCal, and Bay areas are popular among the kids who want to be close to home. Oh, and UNLV too.

  58. BTW, I met an amazing teacher from NYC that worked in Hawaii for two years. It was a special program that was set up to bring brand new teachers into your state and pair them with an experienced teacher for training and experience. The hope was that some of the teachers would stay beyond the one or two year commitment. He loved Hawaii, but he said the working conditions were not so great. He mentioned typical class size of 40 students, budget shortfalls so minimal supplies and just not enough adults in each school building to properly supervise that many k – 6 children.

  59. “But no one calls family-farm owners “greedy.””

    My perception is that it is the big agricultural corporations that are accused of being greedy, not to mention forcing family farmers out of business.

  60. “if a young single or an empty-nest couple with teaching qualifications want to be footloose and try living and working in different places, there are the DOD schools and the international schools to look at”

    My kids’ school gets quite a few teachers from out of the area who’ve been teaching at schools like this.

  61. Rhett, you grossly overestimate the importance of climate for most people when choosing where to live.

    I see that as a reason many folks don’t move from Boston to Charlotte. I just thought Hawaii would be enough of a draw that it would overcome those concerns.

  62. “The DOE has long had issues getting all the jobs filled in our more rural schools too”

    Our DOE does have one advantage over places like the rural CO districts in the OP. Being a statewide school district, there’s the carrot of moving to desirable schools as positions open there.

    A lot of my classmates who are teachers started teaching in rural schools, many of them on neighbor islands, then moved as opportunities, arose along with their seniority.

  63. “There is a big difference between taxpayer oversight, which is of course fair, and being told constantly that you are lazy and greedy and incompetent to boot.”

    As the DW of a government employee – I agree. With the local news constantly highlighting the bad apples on top of it.

    I appreciate that this is a problem, but I don’t know what the solution should be. I spent part of my childhood in a rural area, and my parents still live there. Yet I wouldn’t move back there for $222K, much less $22K. And I actually have some connections in that area!! Moving to Eastern Colorado? And there are somehow no places to rent for under $600/month?? How is that even possible? No effing way. And I’m married. Part of the reason I left Central CT is that it was a horrible place to be a 20-something single person. I can’t imagine living in one of these towns as a 22-year old outsider. It would be totally miserable.

  64. “I just thought Hawaii would be enough of a draw that it would overcome those concerns.”

    It is enough of a draw to attract some teachers (and physicians), but the realities of living here result in many of them leaving.

  65. but the realities of living here result in many of them leaving.

    I have a friend who did a year at the University of Hawaii and his complaint was the culture was very insular. If you hadn’t lived in HI for x generations then you were looked at and treated as an outsider. Is that true and if so is it part of the problem.

  66. Rural places are rural because, by definition, most people don’t want to live there. Why should teachers be any different?

  67. ” I just thought Hawaii would be enough of a draw that it would overcome those concerns.”

    I think that is true more in theory that in practice. It is really far from the rest of the country. We had family members there for a 3 year military stint, and while they loved it – they definitely felt the way that HM described. A little lonely, definitely island fever and a feeling of isolation. Lots of complaints about people not visiting (or not visiting often enough). And they were on Oahu with a built-in community.

  68. I should have said – while they loved aspects of living there like the climate & beaches…

  69. “They could also be creative in looking for retirees, especially relatively young retirees, to teach one or two classes, e.g., the retired engineer who’s taken 7 math classes and 4 physics classes in college, might teach a couple HS level classes.”
    In every district I’ve lived in, teachers complain that if you move to another district or state, you start out again at the lowest pay level, regardless of years of teaching experience. So the retired engineer in Finn’s example, or a retired teacher from another district, is going to be paid at the $22,000 level in rural Colorado. That may very well not justify the cost of moving.

  70. I ask because Hawaii has kind of the inverse of the “where are you *really* from” phenomenon as compared to the rest of the US — here it’s the people who look white (or haole as we would say) who are assumed to be not-really-from-here. And it can be kind of a shock for someone who’s never experienced it.

  71. “Stephanie Wujek grew up a small town girl with dreams of becoming a teacher in a small town school. Wujek, 24, got her wish after graduating with a biology degree from the University of Northern Colorado.

    She now teaches science and coaches track in tiny Wiggins Middle School in Morgan County on the plains northeast of Denver. She’s lucky. Wujeck has a supportive principal and has mentors who help her create lesson plans and share tips to gain traction in her classroom.

    “This has worked out well for me,” said Wujek, who attended high school in Windsor. “I’ve always been drawn to the rural side of life. I knew I could connect with students better in this atmosphere. And I think you can give them more attention in a smaller school setting.”

    Wujek is an exception in a state desperate for teachers.”

    This was the opening to the posted article.

    Why isn’t the solution to find more young people like Stephanie? You can’t lure teachers from urban areas to little towns, so grow your own teachers from the young people already living there, who have the family ties and familiarity with rural living that urban outsiders lack.

    If the community is so unappealing that even the local kids flee, that would seem to be the real problem, and one that no program of subsidized housing or signing bonuses is going to solve.

  72. Scarlett – I think that’s exactly it, you need to recruit from within but how many of those kids that are growing up in rural areas go to college? I’m just thinking about my own hometown which is not rural, but is small. Some people went back but most of the really smart kids went away to college and then settled elsewhere. However now that I think about it, a lot of my friends that did come back to where I grew up do teach there, probably because it’s one of the better paying jobs.

  73. moved to low COA areas

    @Finn – I bet all these low COA areas have high schools with AP calculus, and a lot of craft beer. They moved from SV to Boise, to SLC, to Billings. Not to Salmon, Baker, Elko.

  74. In addition, a lot of white people who move here have never dealt with being a minority before, and some have difficulty with that. Some might perceive that as being treated as an outsider.

  75. Where I grew up, teaching was a desirable/competitive job because of the hours and benefits. My hog farmer uncle was also a math teacher, which kept their family afloat during years with bad hog prices. I wonder how much better Colorado would do if it mandated a minimum teacher salary of $38k.

  76. Father-in-law was a teacher in a rural Iowa town. DH couldn’t wait to escape the town. DH hasn’t been back in 3 or 4 years. He hated living there. The town is struggling with the realization that they need to consolidate with another school in order to survive.

    Like Ivy, I don’t think DH would move back there for $220,000. He probably wouldn’t for $2,20,000 either.

  77. Atlanta Mom,

    Maybe some of the rural kids who don’t go on to college would be motivated in middle school by a scholarship program for future teachers who agree to teach in an underserved rural school for x years after graduation. Certainly the current teachers, if doing their work well, should be motivating at least a handful of their capable students to want to follow in their footsteps, and providing guidance on the teacher training process for those students whose own parents didn’t go to college and need some additional support.

  78. Ada, the ones with kids, or planning families, did move to place like what you mentioned, as well as WCE’s neck of the woods (and near RMS’ and DD’s), which are not really rural.

    But I’ve also known others who moved to more rural areas, like Nevada City, CA (pop ~3k per wikipedia), Murphys, CA (pop ~2213), Rogue River, OR (~2176), or Sea Ranch, CA (~1305).

    HfN, I’m not thinking of attracting people to move there specifically to teach so much as tapping talent that may already be there, or nearby, or being part of the attraction.

    Of course, teacher certification requirements may be a problem.

  79. “teacher certification requirements” – YES. I think this is a problem everywhere – for example, a math Ph.D student who tutored one of my siblings in math was not a certified teacher and could not get a job as a teacher in the public schools. Other teachers (more willing hoop-jumpers) may be certified but inferior teachers. Cut the red tape!*

    *I have no idea how the certification process actually works – if someone who has familiarity with it would explain, I think the rest of us would find it very helpful. :)

  80. I wonder how much better Colorado would do if it mandated a minimum teacher salary of $38k.

    And who would pay for it? If these rural school districts could afford to pay more that would already be doing it.

  81. Certification can actually be very easy in some states. I know several people who have gotten alternative certification in a year, by taking some online courses.

  82. Scarlett and Atlanta may have hit on a long-term way to at least partially address the solution, by selling middle school kids with community roots to become teachers and come back home to teach.

    I’d guess that some of that has been informally going on for a long time, but perhaps a more formal program like Scarlett suggests, including scholarships and support, would have more success.

    And as WCE suggests, perhaps teaching as a complement to other rural employment might also help sell it. E.g., a farmer with an ag degree might teach a biology class during slow season (assuming such a thing exists).

  83. Denver Dad, Colorado could raise funds by increasing taxes-that’s how Iowa raised teacher salaries. Some related articles I googled mentioned how north Colorado districts have to compete against Wyoming.

    Idaho also has low teacher salaries and loses people to Wyoming and Washington.

  84. It would indeed be interesting to hear from someone who is certified as a teacher, or has a spouse / close family member who is. I have some impressions based on my mother’s experience (she’s a retired teacher) and a few other points of contact with the process, but my familiarity with it is not that great so take this with several grains of salt.

    Coursework in pedagogy — imho this is more important the younger the kids you’re talking about — though even for high schoolers I’d say there’s value to learning some of it. Even if what you’re doing is training adults, some methods are more effective than others. However, that is an area where I suspect we could do with less of the education coursework, especially for those seeking high school level certification.

    Practice teaching, a recommendation based on those supervising your practice teaching, an interview (or a series of interviews?) — this one I think is very important but would perhaps be better placed at the beginning of the process rather than once people have spent all that time and money getting an education degree. Some people just shouldn’t be teaching and if you can channel them out of that career path as part of admission to a teacher training program / education degree, instead of after they’ve made such an investment, there would be a lot more freedom to reject unsuitable personalities because you wouldn’t be financially screwing them over.

    Standardized tests on which you need to achieve a certain score — not the most useful thing out there, probably mainly there to demonstrate that the whole process is Objective.

  85. by selling middle school kids

    There’s a market for middle school kids? How are the prices? I may be open to offers.

  86. Denver – I think it would just have to be something that was important to the state legislature which it may not be.

    A state-funded scholarship program could work. The other problem (at least in Georgia) is also that there seems to be a decent chunk of rural kids who are not ready for college, even though they may have won the Hope Scholarship (at least a B in high school). There was a big outcry a few years ago when the scholarship stopped paying for remedial classes in college for these B students. And losing their scholarships once they were in college because their grades dropped below a B causes a lot of kids to drop out.

  87. Oops, yeah, that idea might run afoul with human trafficking laws.

    Perhaps it might have fewer legal obstacles if it tried to sell middle schoolers on becoming teachers.

  88. I personally believe that the greatest reason for resentment of public school teachers and other government employees is the loss of private pensions. In MA, gov’t employees get good health benefits and a decent (contributory) pension, but since their payroll deductions were to the state pension fund and not to Social Security they lose most of their Social security earned benefits from other employment. So only the lifers come out ahead.

    I had union teachers in my family in big cities and suburbs. I respected them and their professionalism and hard work. But the disdain for teachers is long standing, especially for male middle and high school teachers in technical subjects. It was a common saying in my childhood. Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

  89. Teaching is hard. I decided to become an accountant rather than a teacher (which was what a re-entering housewife usually did, unless she sold real estate) because I knew that even if I worked really hard at learning how to do it, after two years of schooling and five years on the job I would be no more than mediocre.

  90. Here at my kids religious school, we have a trickle of former professional/college educated mothers who stayed home for a while and decided to go back to work as teachers. They try it by first being classroom aides while they get their certification, then may become substitute teachers and finally get a classroom of their own when they are certified.
    Then, there was one father who gave up his management consulting job because he was burnt out and really wanted to spend more time with his family. He became a middle school Math teacher. He was promised a position and started teaching immediately on getting his certification.

  91. “There’s a market for middle school kids? How are the prices? I may be open to offers.”

    As far as I know, there’s no market for used children.

  92. And as WCE suggests, perhaps teaching as a complement to other rural employment might also help sell it. E.g., a farmer with an ag degree might teach a biology class during slow season (assuming such a thing exists).

    When I was a kid, it was relatively common for men teachers to have a side business. I know some teachers who do that now. Generally, they were the better teachers.

  93. Pseudonym, yeah, I was thinking the farmer who also teaches biology might be able to make it more relevant to the students, particularly rural students, than someone without that background of practical application.

  94. I do think this already happens – the smart girls (yes, all women) from my HS graduating class who still live in the area are almost all teachers at our old school or nurses at the local clinic or hospital. Of the people who did stay in the area, there is also a small-town preacher (male) and a couple guys in family businesses ( a car dealer and a farm). Most of my honors track classmates left though. Some are in Des Moines or Iowa City, but a lot more left the state entirely – mostly to Minneapolis, but some to various other places. They are in more Totebag style jobs – management consulting, engineering, corporate finance/accounting, IT, etc with less distinction in stereotypical jobs for men & women. I bet most of them also wouldn’t go back for $220K. (maybe $2.2MM because you could easily retire on that in town – and still take frequent trips to MSP/Chicago/Kansas City)

    And my town is probably not as bleak as some of these.

  95. DH did not get his Bachelor’s in education, but he did get his Master’s in education. He found the graduate program and the certification process to be helpful. First of all, it taught him pedagogy and various educational theories (e.g. Montessori, Waldorf, constructivism, etc). I know that a lot of you hate several of those theories, but DH finds that bits and pieces of all of them come in handy at different times and with different kids. Remember, he teaches in PUBLIC school, and he sees all kinds of kids with all kinds of needs, issues, and challenges, so having several pedagogical arrows in his quiver that he can pull out when needed has been very helpful to him in being able to effectively teach a really wide variety of kids.

    Also, learning classroom management skills is critical, and this was part of DH’s program. Being able to manage a classroom is just as important as subject-matter knowledge to be an effective teacher in public schools. You might have a PhD in math, but if you don’t know how to manage a classroom with maybe 20-30 elementary kids, or adolescents, or teenagers (as the case may be), you’re not going to succeed as a teacher. So I have to respectfully disagree with the assertion that forcing public-school teachers to get a license is nothing but red tape.

  96. I also think that just putting ex-professionals in front of a classroom with no education background, no knowledge of teaching methods, no student teaching experience or anything is a recipe for disaster. I know that it is common here to look down on Education as a field of study, but I don’t see it. Teaching in a public school is hard, and new teachers are thrown to the wolves. They better have some knowledge to fall back on.

    I also think that having a PhD in math, for example, doesn’t make for a good HS math teacher. Sometimes the people who are the brightest in a subject are the absolute worst at teaching it to others.

  97. Seattle Soccer Mom – if you’re reading, or anyone else who is familiar with Seattle – desperately seeking awesome restaurants to take clients to dinner on a Sunday. Am shocked at how many restaurants are closed on Sundays!! Needs to be really good, does not need to be fancy, but needs to have tables conducive to conversation. Good service. Any ideas??

  98. I’m allowed to teach economics to 18-year-olds in college. I’m not qualified to teach 18-yr-olds in high school– unless it’s for college credit. (And last I checked, it would require another 30 hours of college education to get me up to speed.) Interestingly, our local high school would rather use people who don’t know econ at all. (In one case, they used a guy who had taught German the year before– and didn’t know that particularly well.)

  99. “I’m allowed to teach economics to 18-year-olds in college.”

    And perhaps dual-enrollment 16- and 17-year-olds?

  100. And if you were certified to teach at the high school level, you could teach algebra to 14-year-old 9th graders but not to 14-year-old 8th graders. You can continue the exercise on down to K. Are you arguing that there shouldn’t be any distinction in certification, so that the qualification to teach at the college level would be the same as to teach K? Or are you arguing that certification should be more fine-grained and based on the age of the student? Or that high school certification should be by subject matter?

    As long as you make distinctions between different levels of schooling in teacher certification, you’re going to end up with bright lines.

  101. Right, but why draw such lines? For example, when one operates a charter, you don’t have to worry about any of that crap. You just find good teachers, tweak/train them, etc. With a bit of polish, I would be excellent in a high school math or econ classroom. And under no circumstances would I be effective enough (to be hired) as a really good K-5 teacher. I know that– and anyone watching me for a bit, could figure that out too.

  102. 8th grade math, I’d be fine, etc. But as the students get younger and younger, I’d get less and less effective– moving from excellent to good or even, not-so-good.

  103. I’d like to see employees who don’t show up to work and ignore the Ed Code fired

    As hard as it is to staff rural districts I bet they would be about as reluctant to fire a rural teacher in tenureless Texas as they would be in California.

  104. Lark: How fancy?

    Mid-range – I love Volunteer Park Cafe, quiet but may not be business-y enough. Lark is actually lovely, too. Purple is a classic standby. Cafe Flora is vegetarian, but still okay. Harvest Vine has some private-ish areas, if you make reservations.

    People love Aqua (very fancy seafood). El Gaucho is the related steak place. There a few fancy “families” of restaurants – Tom Douglas (Lola, Palace Kitchen etc.), Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce), Maria Hines (Agrodolce). These places are all reliable, mostly with reservations and Sunday hours. They also serve unique and local food – the elusive northwest cuisine. Google any of those chefs and you will find a central website with hours and type of cuisine – there are some that are more upscale than others.

    If you are willing to go out of town and want to spend $$$ and hours on a perfectly curated dinner, The Herbfarm is impressive.

  105. Kids school does let teachers experiment with which grades they want to teach. Most move between Grades 2 to 5. Over time some teachers just decide that they like to teach a particular grade and that’s where they will stay. Others continue to move around and yet others will try their hand in some sort of administrative capacity to see whether they would like to be a vice principal or principal. I don’t know how other schools work but the teachers and staff seem really happy.

  106. With a bit of polish, I would be excellent in a high school math or econ classroom.

    What about the hours? You presumably teach 2-2 which is 6 hours in the classroom per week, right? High school math would be 30 hours.

  107. I think one of the hardest things that these teachers have to deal with is discipline in the classrooms. My daughter keeps complaining about her Spanish teacher. I’ve been asking her questions to get to the root of the problem, and I don’t think the problem in this classroom has anything to do with Spanish. In order to get certified to teach in MS or HS, she has to be fluent in two Romance languages. This teacher is fluent in three; Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. She teaches Italian and Spanish in our school. The problem is the kids don’t behave in her class, and she seems to have lost control of her classroom. She doesn’t have the experience to know how to get them to listen to her without screaming, and that doesn’t seem to be working. She is observed, but the kids behave when the administrators are in the room. I know she has a mentor since it is her first year in our district, but I wonder if that is the type of stuff they share or discuss.

  108. Joule is amazing (French-Korean). I’m pretty sure they take reservations. However, I’m forever scarred from being there on election night this year.

    We were waiting in the bar for some friends, and I was refreshing the NYT on my phone. HRC projected to win, 95% certain. Refreshed for 30 minutes, drinking and fidgeting. Our friends arrived, I put my phone in my purse and we ate an amazing dinner. Joule is a place where no one has their phone on the table.

    2/3 of the way through the meal, I say, “I just have to take a look at the returns”. The table humored me, and I looked and went, “Oh shit! The NYT says there is a 95% chance Trump is winning. The other three looked at me in disbelief, and pulled out their phones. We all stared blankly at the screens. Then, the neighboring tables noticed and pulled out their phones. It was like someone sucked all the air out of the room. 5 minutes later everyone is grim, and the glow of the screens filled the space. It’s Seattle – no one was expecting this, and our beloved NYT had told us everything was fine just 90 minutes ago.

  109. Looks like Westward and The Whale Wins both are open on Sunday. If the weather is good, Westward has impressive outdoor dining/view.

    Cafe Juanita and Canlis are the clear winners for “fancy business dinner” – and probably the most expensive restaurants in the city – but closed on Sundays.

  110. I’ve often wondered if we’d have more luck if we separated the daycare aspect of school from the classroom instruction. I’m willing to bet that Eric could teach a given student as much, if not more, in 2 90 min classes per week than a competent high school teach could in 5 50 min classes.

  111. I am a college teacher, and I think i would be utterly unqualified to teach at K12 level, especially K8. I don’t know how to talk to those kids, I don’t know how to break down material for those ages, I don’t know that much about IEP/504 plan accomodations, and I know absolutely nothing about working with kids who are not reading, or who have discipline problems due to ADHD or anxiety or simple middle school hormones. Teaching at that level is a professional field, and one that is rather different from college teaching, although there is some overlap.

    And honestly, most college professors could benefit from some training in good teaching.

  112. Rhett, that would be called “tracking”.

    No, I think the kids in remedial math would be better of with smaller more focused periods of instruction as well.

  113. Rhett, I definitely agree that smaller classes help kids who need math remediation. When my middle school math teacher friend had to average classes of ~35, she put 40 kids/class in high math and 20 kids/class in remedial math (not equal numbers of classes, obviously) because the kids who need remediation need the 1:1 attention.

    By high school though, lots of kids just don’t want to be there and that’s what I was thinking about with my comment.

  114. There’s a great book called “The Importance of Being Little” about preschool instruction and methods and science and blahblahblah. It is a really good read for people with free time and interest in the sub-5 set.

    At the end of her book, she talks about the conflict in wanting kids to have curriculum and instruction by certified teachers with extensive education in child development, but also wanting to allow kids 60 minutes for a nap, 30 minutes for lunch, and lots of free play. It is hard to reconcile arguing for professionalization of preschool teachers when much of the work is still very low-skill. The author ends up recommending a bit of tracking – that we should have preschool teachers and preschool attendants, with different education, salary and expectation.

  115. I posted earlier today, but it looks like my post disappeared. Trying again.

    DH did not get his Bachelor’s in education, but he did get his Master’s in education. He found the graduate program and the certification process to be helpful. First of all, it taught him pedagogy and various educational theories (e.g. Montessori, Waldorf, constructivism, etc.). I know that lot of you hate several of these theories, but DH finds that bits and pieces of all of them come in handy at different times with different kids. Remember, he teaches PUBLIC school, and he is responsible for teaching all kinds of kids with all kinds of needs, issues, and challenges, so having several pedagogical arrows in his quiver that he can pull out as needed has been helpful to him in being able to effectively teach a really wide variety of kids.

    Also, learning classroom management skills is critical, and this was part of DH’s program. Being able to manage a classroom is just as important as subject-matter knowledge to be an effective teacher in public school. You might have a PhD in math, but if you don’t know how to manage a classroom with maybe 20-30 elementary kids, adolescents, or teenagers (as the case may be), you’re not going to succeed as a teacher. So I respectfully disagree with the assertion that the licensing process for public school teachers is nothing but red tape or “crap.”

  116. Rhett, I definitely agree that smaller classes help kids who need math remediation.

    Not nessecarily smaller. I’ve taught adults and decently paid college graduates who want to be there have a 4 hour a day limit on instruction. Anything more is grueling for both instructor and student and the amount retained falls precipitously. I think the current high school system is pretty far from the ideal balance.

  117. Anon in Seattle, thank you so much. Have taken notes and looking now.

    That dinner story at Joule…that would be hard to go back to for sure.

  118. “teachers experiment with which grades they want to teach. Most move between Grades 2 to 5. Over time some teachers just decide that they like to teach a particular grade and that’s where they will stay.”

    My mom started her career teaching HS (at 19 she was practice teaching HS seniors), then slowly moved down to lower and lower grades. When she retired, she was teaching 1st grade.

  119. “Sometimes the people who are the brightest in a subject are the absolute worst at teaching it to others.”

    That is true in many areas. People who are naturally gifted in academics, or sports, or music, can’t always relate to those who have to struggle to master the concepts that come easily to the gifted. In swimming, for example, most of the top coaches were not themselves top swimmers. If you have perfect pitch, you might not be the best person to teach a beginning singer how to stay in tune. I’m sure that my law school property professor was really smart, but it was amazing how, after decades of private practice and teaching,was always able to put himself in the shoes of a 1L who hadn’t yet mastered the Rule of Perpetuities and walk her through it step by step, not even hinting at concepts that the class had not yet reached.

  120. I think the college syllabus has room in it for a semester of teaching Instruction. It is good experience for relating to your kids and could be helpful if you reach a senior position and need to share your knowledge.

  121. Rule of Perpetuities

    And to think it’s been abolished in: Alaska, Idaho, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and South Dakota.

  122. I have a 3-3 load. (We’re a teaching first, but research is still expected/supported.) But the point stands; it’d be a lot more time in the classroom. I do wonder how much more “presentation” I’d do in a HS classroom. In regular classes, my sense/data are that they spend about half of their time instructing and the other half allowing class work, etc. In AP/Honors/DualCredit, it’d be a higher percentage.

    Echoing the earlier comment, I’ve certainly had my share of bad profs– and heard stories– particularly in research settings (2/2 or 1/2 or 1/1 loads), where teaching is often not valued or even a negative. (My dissertation advisor was borderline for tenure on research and won a teaching award. He was told my numerous colleagues that we was obviously spending far too much time/energy on this teaching.)

  123. I have a friend who runs a private business that mainly focuses on helping people get alternative teaching certificates. In conversations with her the issues of people who come from other professions are (1) classroom management – ranging from how long you can “lecture” before they all tune out to how to keep Little Jane in her chair or how to keep Little John off his phone, (2) how to implement different approaches when the one you are most comfortable with isn’t working and realizing that poor grades can also be partly your fault, (3) having to learn to teach ALL of the curriculum for that class and to an extent cover the same amount of material in roughly the same detail as every other teacher teaching that same class so that when they move to the next one you have as homogeneous a group of kids as possible. And, getting hands on experience in the classroom is key. Her business has a mentor for each client that coaches them more on the process of teaching (and all the bureaucratic stuff) and how to integrate into the culture than subject matter. A good number pull out when they move from teaching a class with the main teacher in the room to teaching in alone in the room.

    Teaching part-time is hard for many schools to manage because part-timers typically want either mornings or afternoons or with block schedules only A days or only B days. Depending on what you are teaching and the mix of kids in the school, it can be hard to schedule teachers that way when you are juggling scheduling of all the classes and grades. My kids private middle school has had 1-2 part-time teachers. It was hard to keep teachers at less than full time in part due to fewer benefits, which is important to those starting families. So, they would add a coaching position or an extra middle school elective choice or an elementary enrichment section or two to their schedule.

  124. “Being able to manage a classroom is just as important as subject-matter knowledge to be an effective teacher in public school.”

    I completely agree.

    This topic is depressing because I don’t see much improvement happening any time soon.

  125. Just adding to my comment from earlier about the importance of classroom management. For the past couple of years, DH has volunteered to help teach the “Our Whole Lives” class at our local UU church. (OWL is a UU program on sexuality; at our church, it is offered to 8th graders.) Each year, there are four OWL teachers. DH’s co-teachers have been people who have known a lot about issues related to sexuality — nurses, therapists, and the like. But they haven’t been professional teachers. DH has found that he has had to re-vamp a lot of the lesson plans that his co-teachers have suggested, because he could tell just by looking at the proposed plans that they weren’t going to be effective in communicating the subject matter to the kids. Although his co-teachers knew a lot about sex and relationships, they had no idea how to effectively teach a room full of 13-year-olds about sex and relationships.

    Teaching really is a skill that is separate from subject-matter knowledge, so again, I emphasize my point that it is not absurd to think that people who want to teach in public school should be expected to get training in teaching methods.

  126. To be clear(er), I would expect the training to be far more valuable to those moving from various professions into teaching (as in DH’s example). Would I learn a thing or two in taking 30 hours of college credit in education courses? Absolutely. Is it enough to warrant the time and money? No way. For someone in my spot, the optimal approach would seem to be a class/bootcamp or two– and then OTJ training with some mentoring (as we presumably do for rookie teachers now). So, the “crap” part of this is requiring everyone to go through so much– and to insist that this should be a legal requirement to be in the classroom.

    And back to some of the opening themes, you can’t insist on paying the same wages to everyone and putting up substantive barriers– and then complain about shortages that you’ve created with your policies.

  127. Agree w/Eric’s last comment. If you have shortages then you also have to look at recruiting from other professions and doing some sort of fast track teaching credentialing. The classroom management issue may be mitigated a bit with the smaller number of students in a rural school.

  128. I have heard from parents that it is almost expected that students who were well behaved in elementary will misbehave in MS. Why is that ? Self fulfilling low expectations for behavior ? Or am I missing some cultural basis here ?

  129. Ada, that’s essentially how my kid’s preschool in Tx was run, inofficially. Licensed teachers for every classroom, and also a “teachers aid” whose name was generally not mentioned. The teachers ran various activities, with help from aids. The aids were in charge of snack and nap time, probably lunch too. The teachers were all white. The aids were all Hispanic, and most had been there much longer than the teachers stuck around. They were not permitted to speak Spanish on the job, but there was a Spanish teacher who came in a couple times a week. Spanish was her second language. She was white. I think free play, outside time, and similar are more important for preschoolers than writing their names or whatever, so once I figured out the system, I took most of my questions and concerns to Ms Maria. Teachers aids were address that way; teachers were Ms [last name].

  130. Teaching really is a skill that is separate from subject-matter knowledge, so again, I emphasize my point that it is not absurd to think that people who want to teach in public school should be expected to get training in teaching methods.

    That seems obvious to me.

  131. Embarrassed Anon, those boots are classic and you can wear them at any age.

  132. Louise, I think the number one problem in K-12 is our society’s trouble with family structure/stability. Generally, from what I’ve seen/heard/experienced, it’s easier to handle K-5’ers in the classroom. (Of course, they’re more challenging in certain ways. And a critical mass of trouble-makers, even in K-5, can make things quite challenging. But give their size and development, they’re generally easier to “control”.) By the time students get to middle school and high school, students become less compliant and teachers get less support from home (as kids become more challenging at home, esp. for single parents). By the time they get to high school, they’ve been divided into three tiers: 1.) good college prep (where kids are self-starters or get a lot of support at home); 2.) mostly tread water for four years (little or no homework, since teachers can’t get them to do it and parents can’t/won’t hold the kids accountable; if you go to college, be ready for remedial math and english); 3.) drop-outs-to-be.

    The movie “Waiting for Superman” is helpful in this regard– particularly as this relates to urban and suburban schools. And as part of the broader social and economic topics, the troubles with family structure are a huge part of Charles Murray’s indispensible book, Coming Apart. Of course, family structure cannot be easily addressed by public policy– at least in ways that are politically palatable. So, that leaves us with the second-best/biggest op: injecting competition into K-12 where possible. (Spending even more money– more than the $300K we spend now on the average K-12 classroom– would only occasionally be expected to be helpful.) A govt monopoly might be rel. effective when family structures are relatively homogeneous and generally sound. If not, injecting more competition should be helpful.

  133. “That seems obvious to me.”

    I’ve had this discussion with colleagues of mine who teach at the college level. Some have teaching background/degrees, and others have the typical STEM PhD. Not all of them are good teachers, and not all of them are willing to learn how to teach. Even at the college and grad school level, you can’t stand in front of a room and just talk.

    Many people who make the jump into K-12 education do not have training in teaching methods or even an understanding of their audience. Yet they are allowed to continue to flub through. I know both types – those who flub through and those who have spent the time and money to become effective educators.

    I took a pedagogy short course one spring break and learned a lot on bringing material to my students, and creating scientific presentations that convey the information I need them to convey. I love taking classes or attending seminars/webinars on improving my story telling.

  134. A govt monopoly might be rel. effective when family structures are relatively homogeneous and generally sound. If not, injecting more competition should be helpful.

    The only problem is cost. We have competition in healthcare and as a result we end up spending way more than a place like the UK for care that is only marginally better. Domestically, we have competition at the college level where we also have spiraling costs. One thing government seems to be better at than the free market is controlling costs in things subject to Baumol’s cost disease.

    I don’t see why we wouldn’t expect competition to result in the same spiraling costs in primary and secondary education as we currently see in tertiary education.

  135. With massive govt subsidies into a semi-market set-up– as presenting in HC and college ed…and prospectively in K-12 through vouchers– that is a substantive concern. Catholic K-8 used to be inexpensive in our state. With vouchers, there’s no need for the Catholics to subsidize it so much; those subsidies now come from the state through backpack funding.

    But public charter schools don’t run into this problem– and promise more innovation, of many types.

  136. “Are these ridiculous for someone in the second half of her first century? Not that anyone of that age ever argues over such a thing.”

    I think that they are fine for a woman of a certain age! What says “young” about them to you? The 3″ heel? I don’t think so – I think they’d work for lots of ages. I like them. I can do a 3″ heel for work all day if it is a block heel like that.

    @NOB – I agree with you completely.
    @AustinMom – That’s really interesting about your friend’s consulting business. Those are the things that would be really intimidating for me too if I ever thought.

    @Finn – When your school recruits people with a subject-matter background but not an education background, what certifications do they go through? Our school does have some career-changers, but they go through certification. Generally, it takes a few years before they would be a lead teacher. They go to classes & are paired with an experienced teacher as an assistant for at least one school year. This is generally true even for teachers coming from public schools, although with a shorter training period. But they still have to take the Montessori-specific certification classes.

    For preschool – we had one certified, professional teacher in each classroom, sometimes with an assistant who was training to be a lead teacher. Then aides who helped with kid-wrangling, monitored naptime, monitored recess, handled lunch while the teachers had a work period, handled after care, etc. The teachers are paid pretty competitively for the area with elementary teachers. The aides varied, but some were interns/student teachers, some without college degrees, some college/grad students working their way through school, etc.

  137. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t expect competition to result in the same spiraling costs in primary and secondary education as we currently see in tertiary education.”

    I think we already see that in the housing market in good school districts.

  138. But public charter schools don’t run into this problem– and promise more innovation, of many types.

    Universities, subject as they are to intense competition, don’t seem all that innovative in terms of pedagogy and cost effectiveness.

  139. “I have heard from parents that it is almost expected that students who were well behaved in elementary will misbehave in MS. Why is that?”

    First, I think almost every kid misbehaves in MS as compared to ES — adolescence, hormones, beginning to question place in the world and consider issues outside your doorstep, massive brain and body changes, etc. I don’t actually think much of this is “misbehavior” as much as natural changes, but when you define “good behavior” as “ability to sit quietly and toe the line for 6-7 hours on end,” normal adolescense sure starts to look like misbehavior.

    This is also the time when the schools ramp up the schedules, homework, and requirements — and then expect parents to back off while the kids learn to handle it on their own. In our ES, the kids basically have the same schedule every day, with one different “specials” period each week — and most of them are in the same classes together. In MS, you suddenly go to A days and B days, with 10 “periods” a day of varying lengths, and staggered schedules across the grades to fit everyone in the cafeteria, so you have bells going off about every 30 minutes, and they have different classes at different times and with different people.

    Finally, developmentally, toddlerhood is about civilizing a child and bonding him to the family. Most of ES involves kids who are learning to exist as part of a family unit, which usually involves cleaving to the family and (by and large) doing what is expected. Adolescence is the preparation for living independently from the family unit, which means that kids naturally begin to push away and question authority. IOW, little kids misbehave largely by accident (too tired, forgot something, angry at sister, etc.), with a little intentional thrown in; MS kids misbehave on purpose as a way of testing limits and establishing independence, with a little accidental thrown in. Good parents figure out ways to give a little more independence and autonomy in an age-appropriate way, i.e., no more than the kid can handle. Schools tend to throw both too much independence (handling unnecessarily complex schedules with differing teacher requirements with kids whose executive function is not yet fully developed), and too little actual autonomy (higher expectations for sitting still, completing homework/projects precisely per the assigned rubrics, and being compliant in class).

  140. Having always lived where school districts are heterogeneous, what makes a “good” school district? Funding? Teacher longevity? Cultural homogeneity?

  141. “what makes a “good” school district?”

    Money. Richer school district = better school district. More PTA involvement, more PTA fundraising, more active parents, more married parents, etc.

  142. So “Rate of 4 year college attendance” is a factor, but “High Quality Vocational Education” is much less a factor. Locally, vocational education is important and is a big factor in support and cost of the upcoming school bond.

  143. Having always lived where school districts are heterogeneous, what makes a “good” school district?

    It’s mostly due to the quality of the students. You have high IQ parents who have high IQ offspring on whom they lavish attention. The actual quality of the pedagogy has a fairly minimal impact. The kids would do about as well in an more average district. Indeed, the data shows they would end up doing even better*.

    * Studies have shown that above average kids from average schools think of themselves as smart and as a result they are more ambitious and go on to higher levels of education and professional success. The same kid in an above average school thinks of themselves as average and as a result they go on to more modest levels of academic and professional achievement.

  144. “The kids would do about as well in an more average district. Indeed, the data shows they would end up doing even better*.”

    ?? I thought there was also data suggesting that kids who were on the skinny ends of the bell curve did worse in heterogeneous groupings; the theory was that the more advanced kids could help the kids who were behind catch up, but the result was that the kids who were behind felt stupid and the kids who were ahead were bored and disengaged. Am I remembering that wrong?

  145. If you buy into the two/three-tier argument, then the “good schools” argument is overblown. Every school has the three tiers; and mostly, it’s the size of the tiers that varies. So, if you have a tier-1 student, you’ll get a good education; if you have a tier-2 student, it’s a very mixed bag; and the “quality” of a school (by the usual metrics) will be the proportion of tier-1/2 students (and its associations with income and family structure), rather than objective measure of pedagogical quality, etc.

    It’s sort of like UK in basketball. When Calipari attracts good talent to UK and they go on to the NBA, it’s not at all clear that he’s a great (or even, a very good) coach. It could simply be that he’s attracting premier talent, improving them in an entirely-average way, and getting to take credit for something where there’s not true cause/effect.

  146. Something similar might be a key (dominant?) factor with universities. To what extent is the quality of their grads a function of inputs rather than the educational process? If research universities are incentivized to research (in addition to, or even against teaching), why would we expect them to have more value-added than universities which prioritize teaching (and have faculty sharp enough to do some research)?

  147. I thought Calipari was recognized primarily for his excellence in recruiting. As an NBA coach, back when recruiting wasn’t such a big part of the job, he didn’t excel.

  148. It’s sort of like UK in basketball.

    Pulling a Finn I read that as United Kingdom and thought, “Wow, I didn’t know basketball was so big there.”

  149. “Domestically, we have competition at the college level where we also have spiraling costs. One thing government seems to be better at than the free market is controlling costs in things subject to Baumol’s cost disease.
    I don’t see why we wouldn’t expect competition to result in the same spiraling costs in primary and secondary education as we currently see in tertiary education.”

    I am not aware that a causal link has been established between competition at the college level and spiraling costs.

    One result of competition at the college level of which I am aware is the reduction in COA for students considered desirable.

  150. ” Studies have shown that above average kids from average schools think of themselves as smart and as a result they are more ambitious and go on to higher levels of education and professional success. The same kid in an above average school thinks of themselves as average and as a result they go on to more modest levels of academic and professional achievement.”

    IOW, be the big fish.

    OTOH, my kids go to what is arguably an above average school, and they can cite many examples of kids who are average by their school’s standards still thinking of themselves as well above average. My guess is that at least some of this is because of the special snowflake treatment they receive from their families.

    Similarly, I would guess that at HSS, many of the kids who are average by HSS standards are already confident that they are big fish, look at their situation as being with a lot of other big fish, and don’t think of themselves as average.

  151. I am not aware that a causal link has been established between competition at the college level and spiraling costs.

    In terms of construction of shiny new facilities it’s certainly an issue.

  152. “In terms of construction of shiny new facilities it’s certainly an issue”

    I read a lot about this sort of thing several years ago– fancy dorms, climbing walls, lazy rivers, etc. But in going through the college selection process with DS, I haven’t really seen or heard much about this sort of thing.

    While perhaps that’s a reflection of the type of schools DS is looking at, my perception is that sort of spending to attract students has gone down, replaced in large part by increasing amounts of financial aid.

  153. Colorado State has a climbing wall. I know because that is my daughter’s top pick (because vet school) and she has spent a fair bit of time looking at the dorm rooms and facilities online. Never mind that she has three more years of high school before heading off to college . . .

  154. SUNY Stony Brook has a climbing wall!! Also, we were out at NJIT this past weekend, a school I know from the 90’s, and I could not BELIEVE all the fancy new buildings! I think 2/3 of the campus is new. And they are building a giant, mega sports and wellness center. This, at a public university with a minimal sports program, and lots of engineering students.

  155. @Finn: you may have missed the high point of Big Fancy New Buildings — we may be over the hump now — but usually that still has to be paid for somehow, which means either ongoing resource commitments and/or the diversion of contributions that could have gone to other sources.

    When I visited my alma mater @4 years ago for reunion, it had a climbing wall, spanky new gym, dorms that I would have *loved* to live in, dining hall with local/organic produce, and multiple new class buildings and facilities — all of which were so shiny they had clearly been built within about the previous decade. I almost didn’t recognize it. Which probably explains why its tuition has gone from @$12K by the time I graduated to almost $65K.

  156. “When I visited my alma mater @4 years ago for reunion, it had a climbing wall, spanky new gym, dorms that I would have *loved* to live in, dining hall with local/organic produce, and multiple new class buildings and facilities — all of which were so shiny they had clearly been built within about the previous decade. I almost didn’t recognize it.”

    Same for mine. At the 15-year reunion, there were just so many new buildings, especially dorms. And the social science building where I spent a lot of time is so nice & new now. The sports complex was getting kind of rusty though – we’ll see what pops up by the 20th.

  157. Perhaps it’s the schools DS is looking at. One does have a new village opening this summer, including a new honors dorm, but I don’t think any of them have climbing walls or lazy rivers. At least I didn’t see anything like that when we toured the campuses.

    One campus used to have its own lake, but I think it dried up.

    As Rhett points out, to a large extent, we’ll be paying for DS to have the privilege of going to school with a bunch of big fish.

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