The State of Education

There is an epidemic happening around the country, maybe around the world.  Teachers, educators, are losing their jobs by the 100’s.  My guess is that there are many reasons contributing to this deadly education disease.  Budgets seem to be the most popular excuse provided when pink slips are given.  Some teachers are fortunate enough to work in districts that have retirees leaving which, in turn, preserves jobs for the time being.

I just heard an interesting statistic related to the district I live in and work for.  In just over a decade, a severe fissure has developed in our teacher-student ratio.  Our student population has decreased and, in comparison, our teacher population has remained nearly stagnant.  This results in having 12 more teachers, comparatively, when using the same ratio from a decade ago.

UPDATE: This may be a correction, but not to confuse anyone, I have to relate what I learned after I wrote and published this post.  The teacher-student ratio rationale I mentioned above may be somewhat inaccurate.  Over the course of the last decade, roughly, our student population district wide has remained relevantly the same.  Our staff, meaning teachers and aids, district-wide has increased by 12 in that same period of time.  The implication, as mentioned above, still holds true.

In order keep jobs safe and avoid laying off teachers in our district it is apparent that over the course of the next few years we have to whittle down the number of teachers to accommodate the number of students in our district.  Essentially, the magic number is 12.  Our district has decided, in a hopeful mindset, to settle this number through attrition.  I guess if they offered early retirement at age 40 I could help out.  However, I know that will not be the case.

Our High School English department was recently informed that there are 10 more spots on the schedule than we need teachers.  The solution is to move one of us to the middle school, which has an opening for a full time Reading/Language Arts position due to attrition.  Change is difficult for everyone, however the good news is none of us are being given a pink slip…yet.

Our High School English department has nine members.  One of those members is not certified to teach English but is certified in Special Ed.  The majority of students on this teacher’s roster have IEPs.  As long as the majority of students this teacher has have an IEP this teacher will continue to teach reading to academically challenged students.  Another one of our members exclusively works with at risk students who may become credit deficient.  That leaves seven members of the High School English department as a pool for our administrators to choose to make a move.  Right now we are asked to ‘think about it’; we are given the opportunity to volunteer for this opportunity.

In recent years, as I have watched school districts all around us cut staff, the budget crunch has never hit me personally.  That honeymoon is over.  It is here and it is real!!  I hear people discuss the reasons as to why we can’t get better teachers in our classrooms.  I train student-teachers, I have colleagues training student-teachers who tend to struggle in the preparation, management, confidence, creativity, and work load of an English teacher.  Is this because the elite students are going in other directions, pursuing other professions due to the gravity of education?

My question is, why are student populations decreasing?  Is it simply demographics?  Is it bigger than that?  What about the influx  of virtual schools and home schooling, is this causing a decrease in student population?  Is it socio-economic?  The greater significance for teachers in my age group (25-45) seems to be what is going to happen 10 years from now?  What about rookie teachers or those students at the University hoping to become teachers?  I am not sure I would advise my children to follow in their father’s footsteps.  Where is education headed?  I am thankful that I work for a forward thinking administrator and a progressive, supportive school board that recognize the significance of work ethic and gainful employment.

My dad has been a plumber his entire adult life and so has my only brother David.   My dad always told me that plumbers will always be needed.  I have sort of felt that way about teachers and education, but now I am beginning to wonder if this is really true.

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About jpsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; Literacy Specialist; Reading Teacher; Literacy Coach; HS ELA Teacher; Published Author
This entry was posted in Education, Education Administration, Educational Leadership, Teaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The State of Education

  1. jsteltz says:

    This from a colleague of mine via email:

    John Boy, Yee of so little faith-the sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar….I still do encourage my students and my own children to be a teacher-there will be a need. Maybe not in the conventional form as we know it now but with virtual education booming-there will still need to be mentors. We will see our government taking a look at what is happening. We have a young man now that is no dummy and he knows that the U.S. has been powerful because of its creativity and strong minds-we are seeing a weakness in this area now and he will address this with incentives to challenge us to empower ourselves through education. Stand strong my son education is not fading we are just shifting. As tides do in the sea the survivor is able to swim with the tide and be adaptable. My approach to education has had to change as the educational climate has changed. I have not changed my convictions or my character I have witnessed 4 cycles in my time and am on number 5 but I am as excited today as on day one. Smile they will wonder what you are up to!

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  2. Judy Rottier says:

    John your article really points out education options in our world today. In our society it has become where everyone can do their thing and we are losing the ideal of a main principle and being loyal to that effort. It may be good but it will change education as we know it!! It will bring out new stategies to teach our students of the future!

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  3. keith swett says:

    We face three problems. One, a lower percentage of the population has children. Two, parents and students have more options. Three, people have a lower sense of community and do not feel the need to support others. Education is always the answer. We are never the problem and I agree we will constantly change. The Greeks thought education would end with the next generation but we are here and owe Greece a great debt. We all worry too much. We need to identify the problem and work towards a solution. The good old days were never all that good. We are just comfortable in our own skin. Relax and stretch. I bet caterpillars never want to be butterflies.

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  4. jsteltz says:

    This from a colleague of mine via email:

    John unfortunately I don’t think our economy has hit bottom yet. I have never observed such division in our political system and the greed of the people of this country. Its like common sense, decency and compassion have been erased from the human race. The people who have, (wealth) seem not to care about the people who are in a world of hurt in our country. I noticed a lot of people who spoke out against health care were in fact on some sort of government payment for their health care (social security, veterans, or people with good insurance). How can an elected official who is entitled to the best health care package in the world tell the people who pay for their coverage , sorry my piece of the pie is much more important than any of your lives. You may be thinking what does this ever have to do with education and our jobs. Everything is connected. Low wages for the working class and escalating gas and consumer prices are creating our economic collapse. Low wages are basically bankrupting our country while our top executives make unheard of profits. How can the stock market increase while unemployment and foreclosures are at record highs. When people can’t afford the products a nation produces we are all in trouble. Take Seymour for example. The largest employer is the school district. No real industrial tax base. Family sizes in decline. With gas prices going up you won’t find people moving to Seymour and driving 20 or 30 miles to work. You may even find people moving closer to work . This move could save a working couple 200 to 300 dollar a month in gas alone. I believe the working class is tapped out and needs to be bailed out . These workers can not afford to pay any more in taxes. Our survival as teachers unfortunately relies on taxes. SOOOOOO I believe that the millions/billions being paid to the top, needs to be paid to the workers . I watched a show on TV called Under Cover Boss. I think the CEO’s had their eyes opened a little. I hope it ‘s contagious.

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  5. Leif & Amy Lautenbach says:

    John, an interesting conversation has developed in some christian organizations in regards to population growth in America and some leaders have asked the question of how does birth rate affect our culture. According to some studies, the current birth rate in our country is 1.9 children per family. If you add in illegal immagrants the birth rate rises to 2.2. The studies indicate no culture in history has survived with a birth rate of less than 2.2. Several questions come to mind. Are we pushing our children away from marriage? Are we telling our young men and women to “wait” unitl you have the right education, the right job etc….

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    • Uncle Rog says:

      Hi, John. I agree with much of what your friend-via-email has written; I wasn’t sure of what all he meant, but sense we’re on the same page.

      At 61, I am optimistic, and see the economy recovering, albeit slowly; but that’s OK. I’m an Independent and don’t care to share my political views; they’re as personal to me as my vote. However, I’ll share the disdain I feel to the mean-spirited Internet political pundit emails; some with half-truths, disinformation, misinformation, embellishments and exaggerations. I now simply delete them for lack of much credibility–though there are some MINUTE reference of truth.

      I didn’t vote for Bush, but when he was elected I thought I’d give him a chance. Furthermore, I’m willing to give President Obama a chance…

      Be that as it may,I wholeheartedly concur with your friend when he wrote, “I have never observed such division in our political system and the greed of the people of this country. Its like common sense, decency and compassion have been erased from the human race. The people who have, (wealth) seem not to care about the people who are in a world of hurt in our country.”; couldn’t have expressed it better.

      How does this address your concern for education and the future of aspiring teachers, not to mention tenured teachers? The ‘mean-spirited’ mentality (2008>) offers no hope for the student, aspiring teacher, nor tenured teacher, more-so they offer no alternative other than simply what was the status quo. It seems a whole new mind adjustment is needed; one of optimism and hope; one that sees the possibilities of trying something new; re-evaluating what didn’t work and why; moving ahead.

      As a former teacher years ago, I think a refreshed mindset is needed, not only to politics and the economy, but to teachers, student teachers, aspiring ones, students and parents. Yes, I’m optimistic and grow more comfortable with this gut feeling everyday. Again, it starts at home; kids hear the negativism with ‘mean-spirited’ attacks by political pundits, who in my mind, would rather see this political party fail… yes, I believe, despite the consequences, they’d like to see the existing political party fail. I’ll remain an Independent, but willing to stand behind someone with an original approach. God forbid I’d have to eat my words. I don’t think I’ll have to.

      Finally, what has happened to our Country’s compassion?! There are friends, family and acquaintances that are failing as I type; losing homes; will it be health insurance or food on the table; am I stuck in a job because of pre-existing conditions, or merely having insurance? Obviously to ths unfortunates, education isn’t on the top of their list. When we, as your friend alluded to, began to reconsider our priorities,needs and the generations coming–change of heart with optimism–we all, including the children, will suffer the disease of depression; our energy drained; no hope in sight. Pay attention to the little rebounds (e.g eased unemployment (yes, marginal), personal investments getting some resurgence after drastic drops, people calling on others for help, AND those offering help and hope. We’ve been here before, God knows we won’t ever want to go back; keep moving ahead! When loss of work gets close to home, be it layoffs or health, we all can empathize, where once we tried to sympathize.

      Promote optimism… it rubs off. Feel good about what is right in your life; challenge others to do the same. Uncle Rog

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  6. Andor Kish says:

    I think the numbers are decreasing is because more students are attending more and more private schools as opposed to public schools. I know this is happening at least in the town I teach at, which is a suburb of NYC. Private schools and expensive ones seem to be the newest fad here. In my tiny district 18 students are going to private school for high school as opposed to the public high school.

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  7. Toni says:

    I know for certain that the numbers are not decreasing for incoming kindergartners for next year. We already have 12 more signed up than last year… and that is not counting open enrollment (5 requests) and whoever signs up in the summer. So, I’m wondering where the decrease is?

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    • jsteltz says:

      Toni-
      A colleague told me today that, while in the past we have had over 200 students in a graduating class, this year’s numbers are ‘around 165’. It seems as though there is a dip right now in enrollment, especially in the high school. Student population seems to be coming back up with the sixth grade class.
      It is encouraging to know that you are getting more students next year…encouraging in the respect that the population continues to grow…right along with our class sizes 🙂 That’s not a complaint!!!! The potential of my colleagues or myself having to give up jobs due to funding or enrollment makes me a bit uncomfortable.
      Thanks so much for your encouraging thoughts today for the future!!!

      Like

  8. Craig Sigl says:

    Change. So many people dread change and end up missing out on the best. Society changes because it is seeking a new and better way to accomplish a task. Those who deny the change, and fight against it, are the ones who are ultimately left in the past, sitting around talking about “the good old days.” Change can be scary, it is unknown, but it leads to great things. If you want to be sure you have a job next school year, maybe it is time to consider a change.

    The one thing that is really on your side was mentioned in your post:”I am thankful that I work for a forward thinking administrator and a progressive, supportive school board that recognize the significance of work ethic and gainful employment.” It is great that you recognize this fact and work to help your colleagues to do the same.

    Teaching will always be a profession that is pursued by a unique type of individual. Since we are unique individuals, we are able to connect in a special way with students and because of that fact, the profession of teaching will always be.

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    • jsteltz says:

      Craig-
      This is extremely insightful and I find this refreshing coming from a young teacher who has taken many risks and survived. Keep up the good work and thanks for your contributions here.

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  9. Has Been Hoopster says:

    I don’t know much about how school districts allocate their money into different programs, but there are many different stumbling blocks for school districts. I’m going to comment on just one…
    As a life long athlete, I know the importance of athletic programs. What I don’t understand is how high school sports are mirroring college sports. How can taxpayers trust schools to spend money wisely on education when schools put money into useless aspects of athletics. When schools pay for coaches to stay in hotels and watch teams play at state (when their team is at home in school) is a breach of trust and a form of betrayal to the taxpayer. It shows carelessness with money and reflects negatively on school.
    In the big picture, we can talk economy and money, but schools ultimately need to be trustworthy and responsibile.

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    • jsteltz says:

      Has Been Hoopster:

      I have written a blog to be published on April 13 inspired by your comments here. Thanks for the inspiration and I look forward to your comments.

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  10. Pingback: School District Budget Relief: Simplify Athletics « John Steltz-Teacher/Author

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