Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why Long-Term Economic Changes Might Mean Better-Quality Teachers

University of Central Florida education professor Lee-Anne Spalding

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

University of Central Florida education professor Lee-Anne Spalding

The Great Recession — and disappearing middle-class jobs — may be encouraging more people to go into teaching.

Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle and American Enterprise Institute writer Neerav Kingsland argue it’s happening, and that it will mean better quality candidates entering the teaching field. Good students looking for stability might seek it with a classroom job.

Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch also argue in Education Next that the quality of teaching candidates, as measured by SAT scores, is improving, and that the economy might be a factor.

Here’s McArdle’s conclusion:

As insecurity in the private-sector labor market increases, the value of public-sector job protections effectively increases, meaning that candidates will be willing to accept lower pay in exchange for the guarantee that it will be nearly impossible to fire them. This is separate from the shrinking number of jobs in the private sector, which also conspires to make higher quality candidates available to school districts. Both factors together could give us a nice boost in teacher scores.

Of course, it’s also possible that a lot of college students suddenly and for no apparent reason decided they wanted to be teachers around the same time that the job market became massively more insecure. But I’m betting it’s no coincidence. Bad news for the graduating seniors, but good news for the nation’s schools.

Has that been the case in Florida?

The number of students earning an education degree from Florida universities (some state colleges also have four-year education degrees) reached its height in 2008-2009, according to State University System data. That’s the middle of the Great Recession and just prior to peak unemployment.

It’s likely some of those graduates chose education prior to the recession’s start.

The number of students earning an education degree from Florida universities has fallen to 7,012 in 2011-2012 from 7,727 in 2008-2009.

Florida is one of many states putting more scrutiny on its college and university teacher training programs. Some schools are raising the minimum required GPA and college aptitude exam scores in an attempt to improve the quality of students.

But college officials also say that they can only raise requirements so high and still meet the demand for new teachers.

Check out the number of education degrees state universities awarded between 2007 and 2012 below.

[spreadsheet key=”0Av06TaO9jXYrdHlnemNkY01BSFJiM1F6ckVOOGI5OUE” source=”Florida State University System” filter=0 paginate=0 sortable=0]


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