Interest in teaching continues to drop in California

The number of people interested in becoming teachers continues to drop in the state. Several factors, including reliance on standardized testing, are to blame, says the president of the California Teachers Assn. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Interest in teaching is steadily dropping in California, with the number of educators earning a teaching credential dipping by 12% last year -- marking the eighth straight annual decline.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported this month that 16,450 educators earned their credential in 2011-12, compared with 23,320 in 2007-08.

The number of students enrolling in teacher preparation programs has also decreased, to 34,838 in 2010-11 from 51,744 in 2006-07.


Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Assn., said several factors have made teaching careers less attractive.

Steep budget cuts since 2008 have brought widespread layoffs, increased class sizes and less money for art, music, science and other programs. And the 2001 No Child Left Behind federal law has led to a greater emphasis on standardized test scores to measure school and teacher performance, which many educators believe is destroying the joy of learning and teaching, Vogel said.

“I don’t think people have given up hope on teaching, but they are really questioning it,” he said.

An annual teacher poll released in February showed that only 39% of those surveyed last year were satisfied with their jobs, a drop from 69% in 2008 and the lowest level of job satisfaction in 23 years.

The survey by the MetLife Foundation also found that 51% of teachers reported feeling under great stress at least several days a week, an increase from 35% in 1985, when the question was last asked.

Even as fewer people consider teaching careers, tens of thousands of California teachers are nearing retirement age. More than 54,000 public school teachers are older than 55, 19% of the total, according to the state Department of Education. The average retirement age is 62.


“Teachers come to work with the general belief that they’re going to make a difference and be the decision maker in their classroom,” Vogel said. “But the difference in their ideal and what’s actually happening is that they’re deciding they don’t want to do it.”


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