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Few jobs for new teachers as veterans retain posts
The Detroit News
By: Jennifer Chambers
July 26, 2012

Christie McVean fits the profile of the typical Michigan teacher: white, female and well-educated.

McVean earned her master`s degree early, has enjoyed 20 years in education and plans to stay in her field.

"I`m in it for the long haul. I love it and I think it`s the right place for me," said McVean, a second-grade teacher in the Berkley School District.

According to data from the state Budget Office`s Center for Educational Performance and Information, Michigan`s work force of K-12 teachers is retaining more of its veteran educators those with six to 20 years of experience leaving fewer job openings for newcomers.

In 2007, nearly 52 percent of the teachers had between six and 20 years of experience. That number grew to 57 percent in 2011.

More teachers are staying put in Michigan, said Robert Floden, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.

"We have always been a net exporting state. Michigan graduates a lot more teachers than we have jobs," he said. "That has been the case in the last decade. With the tightness of budgets, people are staying and teachers are staying on longer on the job."

This week, thousands of teachers from Michigan and across the country are descending on Detroit for the American Federation of Teachers national conference, which opens Friday at Cobo Center.

The conference comes at a time when teachers in Michigan have been the target of education reforms that touch on issues including tenure, collective bargaining rights and classroom evaluations.

As lawmakers consider further reforms, the state`s teacher work force has been shrinking, to 101,697 in 2011 from 117,973 in 2005, as the state`s population continues its slide and fewer dollars are available for K-12 funding.

State differs from nation

Across Michigan, women dominate the teacher work force at a ratio of 3-to-1. The percentage of female teachers has increased every year since 2005, while the percentage of male teachers has decreased.

That trend is tied to another recent reality: More American women than men gain advanced college degrees as well as bachelor`s degrees, according to 2010 census data, resulting in more female graduates and teachers.

"It parallels who is graduating from college more women than men. It`s dramatic for minority groups; even more women than men attend," Floden said.

An overwhelming majority of teachers in Michigan are white 90.5 percent and their share has been increasing, while the number of black teachers has steadily decreased since 2005, falling to 7.2 percent of the work force in 2011. The number of Latino teachers less than 1 percent has remained flat.

Nationally, teaching is among the largest occupation groups in the United States, with more than 3.2 million K-12 teachers in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Richard Ingersoll, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied the teacher work force in America, examining data from 1987 to 2008.

His findings conclude the national work force is growing in size, getting older, employing a larger percentage of beginners and becoming more diverse over the last decade.

This ballooning, as Ingersoll calls it, shows the teacher work force has grown at 2.5 times the rate of K-12 student enrollment.

One explanation could be an increase in special education teachers likely linked to the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

"The numbers of teachers are going up faster than are the numbers of students," Ingersoll said. "That is a ticking time bomb. With an economic downturn, the troubles with our economy, it`s hard to picture how school districts can sustain that increase and pay for it. I don`t see it as sustainable."

Nationally, the proportion of inexperienced teachers those with five years or less on the job in the work force was 17 percent in 1988. By 2007, it was 28 percent, Ingersoll said.

Opportunity at charters

Teach for America has placed 200 beginner teachers into Michigan schools since 2010. It has a contract to place another 225 teachers this fall, mostly schools in Detroit operated by the new Education Achievement Authority, but also into Detroit Public Schools, Inkster and Pontiac schools.

Annis Stubbs, executive director of Teach for America in Detroit and a former DPS teacher, said beginner teachers whether they are college graduates or career-changers with years of corporate experience can bring energy and passion to classrooms.

"I`m hopeful for the future in times like this," Stubbs said. "I see this turbulence as grounds for new organizations and new advocacy to rise up. That makes me hopeful about the future of the profession."

The Detroit Federation of Teachers has been critical of the large numbers of Teach for America staffers being sent into EAA schools, saying children in low-performing schools need experienced teachers.

Charter schools are likely to be doing most of the hiring in Michigan over the next few years as more schools open in response to the state`s cap being lifted.

That will provide pockets of opportunity for new teachers and experienced ones who consider teaching a calling and lifelong career, despite the massive reforms under way across the state.

The most promising job outlook for new teachers and for those looking to re-enter the work force is connected to charter schools in Michigan, said Jon Margerum-Leys, associate dean with the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University.

"There are people who show an interest early in teaching. They seem to have a passion and knack for it. If people have to be determined to be a teacher, maybe there is some good in that. People who want to be teachers really want to be teachers," Margerum-Leys said.

(313) 222-2269

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