Teacher Shortage Creates Dangerous Cycle

By Lenaya Stewart

SPRINGDALE, Md. — Maya Anderson sits staring at her math test. Her foot taps impatiently and she angrily wipes at the sweat on her forehead. This test is 30 percent of her grade, and she doesn’t know the material. The clock ticks loudly in her ears as she closes her eyes and tries to remember the last few lessons her teacher taught but the loud voices coming from the other 37 people in her class makes it impossible for her to concentrate.

Sighing, she turns her test over and gives up. This won’t be the last time.

Students like Anderson all over the United States are being affected by the lack of teachers, according to the Academy of Science’s Web site.

According to data provided by the Department of Education, 32 percent of schools in the U.S. – more than 17,000 facilities – are overcrowded.

“Many of my classes are large and it is hard for my teacher to connect with all the students and make sure hat we all understand the material that she is teaching,” said Ebony Fentry, a sophomore at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, Md. “A lot of times you just have to go home and teach yourself from your textbook.”

Jamie Winbush, a sophomore at Flowers, was eager to talk about how crowded classes affect her.

“I feel as if sometimes our class gets behind in the curriculum just because of how many students my teacher has to teach at once,” Winbush said. “It is especially hard for our teacher because all of her students move at a different pace.”

Teachers said that lack of support is a problem.

“The problem is that teachers deserve professional pay for professional work,” said Tara Jones a TV production teacher at Flowers.

Jones said that teachers have a tough job.

“Very few teachers get recognition for the hard work they do,” she said. “Work for a teacher never ends, often it comes home with you and every night you every night, and still you have to worry about getting grades in on time.”

According to the National Education Association, school districts are struggling with high turn over rates as teachers flee the profession due to the lack of assistance on the job.

The number of teachers in the U.S. who are not qualified to teach has risen from 2,940 in 1997 to 16,710 in 2007, according to data provided by the Department of Education.

“As I teacher I constantly see the effect unqualified teachers leave on students,” said Tenikka Leblanc a financial literacy teacher Flowers. “Students who have had unqualified teachers have a more difficult time learning and many of them drop out of school. The few that remain often never reach their full potential because they feel so academically behind the other students in the school.”

The reporter surveyed 200 students at Flowers and found that only four students said that they were considering becoming a teacher.

“I used to want to be a teacher, but I changed my mind because I don’t feel as if it is a secure career anymore,” said Janay McIntosh, a sophomore at Duval High school in Lanham, Md.

For some people, teaching has become the Plan B.

“I want to become a forensic scientist, but if that doesn’t work out I will become a teacher,” Fentry said.

Some of the students said they didn’t want to be teachers because they see what their teachers face, continuing the teacher-shortage cycle.

“I would never want to become a teacher,” said Chris Johnson, a senior at Flowers.


Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists is an organization of Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals and student journalists in the D.C., metro area. WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession.