Marcus Pavilonis

Coming Up Short


Why Ohio has seen a decrease in student educators

Logan Moore / Assistant News Editor

Emily Legenza remembers the first time she realized she wanted to be a teacher.

Standing in The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, she sang with her 23-member high school choral chamber and looked at the gothic arches above her.

“I remember thinking this is it, this is what I want to do,” Emily Legenza, a junior studying music education, said.

In the fall of 2018, 3.2 million teachers entered the workforce, according to the National Center of Education Statistics. Legenza will join this number when she graduates in 2020. This number may seem large, but to people who study the implications of education, this number is lower than it should be.

Educators play a prevalent role within the state economy. Together, OU and its counterparts — including research, alumni, small businesses, students and visitors — contributed more than $2.9 billion to the state economy in 2017, according to a previous Post report. Professional interns from The Patton College of Education accounted for $12.9 million.

“My choir teacher that I had known since I was little decided to leave the year that we went on that trip,” Legenza said. “I realized I wanted to be the teacher that stays so people can have a program to come back and visit when they’re older.”

Despite various initiatives and grants attempting to aid primary educators, the number of college students wanting to be educators is declining due to intense scrutiny, lack of resources, standardized testing and declining population.

Education shortage

Unfortunately, Legenza isn’t the only student to experience an absence of educators in the public school system. Almost a third of new public school teachers leave the profession, according to a recent survey conducted by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“We have fewer people who identify themselves as wanting to be a teacher,” Joseph Keferl, the professor of education and human services at Wright State University and chairman of State University Education Deans, or SUED, said. “The fact is that there are vulnerabilities for a profession that requires people to be highly ethical trained and skilled makes it hard.”

The organization is a collection of dean-level staff across the 13 four-year state colleges in Ohio that offer education preparation programs. SUED aims to teach the greater public the importance of education, Keferl said.

“People don’t realize how much time, energy and work our teacher candidates provide to school every year,” Keferl said.

“It’s not the ‘bad teaching’ that is turning people away. It’s the government policies that limit teachers. How the government views education has to change. How they view kids in the classroom on different levels — that is the thing that needs to change.”Emily Legenza

While most work and preparation goes unrecognized, teachers often leave due to subpar working conditions, lack of opportunities and ineffective school leaders. Some of these working conditions involve having an overabundance of strict regulation that subjugates teachers to criticism.

“It’s not the ‘bad teaching’ that is turning people away. It’s the government policies that limit teachers,” Legenza said. “How the government views education has to change. How they view kids in the classroom on different levels — that is the thing that needs to change.”

The implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2009 has created controversy between the federal government and the selection of education standards seen in the primary education setting.

State education chiefs, governors and several educators throughout the U.S. came together to develop the Common Core. They set academic standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. Standardized testing is often used to measure both student and educator performance.

“I get asked if I’m worried about getting a job, but really there’s a massive teacher shortage right now. I am worried about testing though, and how the classes are being cut because of the testing,” said Legenza, looking forward to her career as an educator.

Educators who scrutinize the common core (regardless of primary education setting) believe that Common Core attempts to provide equal education throughout the U.S. and high standards for children in lower socioeconomic areas aren’t attainable, according to NPR.

The public can voice their opinion on state-government education issues after the legislation has been passed, but they rarely do so, Thomas Parsons, the director of curriculum and development for Athens City School District, said.

“It does require that people stay on top of that, and I’m not sure all educators do that,” Parsons said.

The barriers

Data from the U.S. Department of Education asserts that students in high-poverty areas are twice as likely to be taught by teachers with short-term licenses than students in low-poverty areas. This creates a system in which there is a lack of teachers entering the workforce in urban areas.

Reasons for leaving primary schools vary based on socio-economic data. For example, there have been several studies conducted that suggest behavior and classroom disruptions are more prevalent in low-funded schools due to the mistrust of teachers, according to New York University.

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, or TEACH, grant program is one of the programs many education professionals partake in throughout the U.S. because of its ability to offer a four-year grant to teachers who wish to obtain higher education degrees. The grant requires, however, that the educator spend an four years in a low-income primary school.

As of last year, federal aid provided to the TEACH grant program totaled $96 million. Similar grant programs that offer loans continue to be popular among young educators, and they play a significant role in consumption patterns in Ohio.

“If you teach at an inner-city school for five years, they’ll pay for you to go back to school and get a master’s,” Legenza said. “But, the program was initially started to get teachers into inner city schools. People later leave these schools for better opportunities.”

Legenza hopes to teach at a more rural area after graduation — she grew up in a small town in northwest Ohio and wants her children to have the same experience.

“I don’t think I’d want to work in the inner city because of the high turnover rate. It’s not good for the kids. If you’re a second grade, first-year teacher, it might be hard for the teachers to accommodate without veteran teachers,” Megan Wolfe, a senior studying early childhood education and communication sciences and disorders, said.

In Ohio, the median income of teachers in the 2016-17 school year was $57,000, almost $2,000 dollars less than the median income nationwide, according to The Washington Post.

“My friends always tell me, ‘Your major is so easy, you don’t even do anything,’ but I don’t let it bother me much,” Wolfe said.

Data regarding that transfer of teachers from low-income to higher-income schools, however, is hard to find. The topic is discussed among educators, but hard numerical data supporting this trend is limited.

“I’ve heard it spoken of very often, but I’m not sure if I’ve seen anything factual enough to make a decision [on the TEACH Grant],” Parsons said.

Declines in population are also to blame for the decrease in enrollment rates for primary education across the country, William Shambora, a professor of economics at Ohio University, said. These rates affect both schools and the demand for education positions.

While birth rates in the U.S. have declined as a whole, population rates in Ohio have both increased and decreased since the beginning of 2010. Larger increases of births were seen in more urban areas like Franklin County and Delaware County. Smaller counties, however, with slower population growth rates still struggle with primary education enrollment.

“I don’t think the issue is training, I love the training. [I go into] schools to do my internship with the Athens youth choir and it is amazing. I don’t find that it’s hard to be an education major. I’m better preparing myself,” Legenza said.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

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