According to a recent study, fewer American high school graduates, particularly those with strong grades and those from historically marginalized backgrounds, want to become a K-12 teacher. Researchers analyzed data from students who applied to a large Texas university between 2009-2020. They examined the number of applicants who expressed interest in teacher education, tracked transfers into and out of such programs while in college, and monitored how many became employed as teachers in Texas. In 2009, 13% of those applying through this common application were initially interested in teaching, while this number dropped to 6.7% by 2020.
The few studies that exist on who is strongly interested in teaching indicate that the population is heavily dominated by white, female students, particularly of lower academic achievement. A leading reason students may be interested in becoming a teacher is the enjoyment of working with children. Conversely, those uninterested in teaching often cite salary and opportunities for advancement to be drawbacks. Additionally, teaching requires a bachelor’s degree and typically certification as well. Gaps in access to and persistence in higher cognitive approach education across lines of race, ethnicity, and family income also contribute to the new teacher population closely matching the existing teacher population. Moreover, students with high academic credentials or those from historically marginalized backgrounds with a bachelor’s degree might have alternatives outside the teaching sector that offer higher pay or status.
Further research could seek to understand better why some young people have an initial interest in teaching, why some who have an initial interest follow through with enrolling in teacher education programs, and what contributes towards graduates’ decisions to enter the profession. This research can potentially enhance the overall size and diversity of the teacher pipeline in the U.S.
Source: Bartanen, B., & Kwok, A. (2023). From interest to entry: The teacher pipeline from college application to initial employment. American Educational Research Journal, 60(5), 941–985. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312231185733