A new report, Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011 , notes the rise of alternative certification programs has introduced a new breed of teacher into public education. The changes are striking because teacher demographics and attitudes have been rather static for the last 50 years.
The National Center for Education Information surveyed 2,500 randomly selected K-12 public school teachers, receiving 1,076 responses, a 43 percent response rate. Survey responses were analyzed according to how teachers had entered the field, how long they had taught, age, race, and education level, among other variables.
Since 2005, one-third of new public school teachers have entered teaching through a nontraditional program. More alternative certification teachers work in high-demand subjects like math, science, bilingual education, and special education. They also tend to teach older students, accounting for close to half of high school teachers and a quarter of elementary teachers. They tend to have less teaching experience than teachers that come through the traditional programs and are also more diverse than the general teacher population, with a higher proportion of males and minorities.
Despite an increased effort to recruit male teachers, the proportion of female teachers continues to increase. Women made up 69 percent of teachers in 1986 and a full 84 percent of teachers in 2011. In the last several years, the teaching force has also gotten younger. The proportion of teachers under 30 climbed 11 percent from 2005 to 2011 and the proportion of teachers who reported having five or fewer years of experience increased 8 percent.
While a large majority of public school teachers are white, there has been a slight growth in diversity in the last 25 years. The proportion of white teachers decreased from 91 percent in 1986 to 84 percent in 2011.
Teachers remained consistent in their opinions about teaching and education in general. Overwhelmingly, teachers:
NCEI questioned teachers about ways to improve the teaching profession and frequently proposed education reforms. Support for performance pay increased from 42 percent in 2005 to 59 percent in 2011. Market-driven pay for teachers in high-demand subjects has also gained traction, increasing from 15 percent in 1996 to 40 percent in 2011. While still unpopular, support for eliminating teacher tenure and getting rid of teacher unions has increased in the last six years.
Traditional and alternative-route teachers have very different opinions about strengthening the teaching profession and proposed education reforms. Alternative route teachers indicated stronger support for the following ideas:
Not surprisingly, alternative-route teachers have much stronger support for recruiting people from other fields into teaching (78 percent versus 44 percent of traditional route teachers). Nearly half of alternative certification teachers support recruiting from other fields into school administration, while only one-fifth of traditional route teachers agree. A sizable majority (62 percent) of alternative-route teachers support expanding the use of charter schools for children in low-performing schools, while only 41 percent of traditional route teachers think this would improve education.
—Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011, C. Emily Feistritzer, National Center for Education Information.