Effort Entices Military, Business Retirees Into Teaching

By Lynn Olson — April 01, 1987 5 min read

The Carnegie Corporation of New York has awarded $392,000 to the National Executive Service Corps for a pilot program to recruit military and industrial personnel for second careers as mathematics and science teachers.

The initiative, announced last week, is based on a yearlong study that found considerable interest in teaching as a post-retirement option among military officers and among engineers and scientists in the private sector.

Designed to help ease the shortage of qualified math and science teachers in the public schools, the project would involve the creation of four demonstration sites--at an Army base, a Navy base, and two industrial centers.

The National Executive Service Corps is a nonprofit organization that recruits retired men and women with executive experience to serve as management consultants for other nonprofit groups.

The study, entitled “Education’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Second Career Scientists and Engineers’’ and financed by an earlier, $84,000 grant from Carnegie, sought to determine whether qualified employees in the armed forces and private industry could be attracted to and retrained for teaching careers.

The Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy has predicted that, by 1992, more than a million new teachers will be needed in the public schools. It found that “as requirements for math and science courses increase, the shortage of teachers for these subjects becomes critical. For each additional year of study required, 34,000 additional high-school teachers will be required.’'

‘Enormous Difference’

The National Executive Service Corps hired the Educational Testing Service to survey more than 7,500 people in the military and in seven leading corporations--Combustion Engineering, DuPont, General Dynamics, General Electric, International Business Machines Corporation, Pfizer, and TRW. Based on 4,300 completed questionnaires, the study found:

  • Approximately one-third of the respondents were interested in exploring a post-retirement career in public-school teaching. An additional 38 percent said their interest would depend on a number of factors, such as whether education courses would be required and the availability of jobs in their hometowns.

Another 21 percent of the military personnel and 29 percent of the industry personnel were not interested.

  • All respondents to the survey had at least one degree in a technical discipline; more than half had advanced degrees; and more than 7 percent had doctorates.
  • Most of those indicating an interest in public-school teaching already had some teaching experience. About 60 percent of the interested industry respondents and 75 percent of the interested military officers said they had already taught for two or more years. Three percent of both groups are currently certified to teach in some state.

Military respondents, in particular, are a potential source of math and science teachers, according to the NESC, because they typically retire at a relatively young age, and they expect to pursue a second career for 13 or more years.

In addition, “at least 50,000 scientists and engineers are expected to retire from industry annually,’' according to Andrew Popp, the NESC vice president who directed the study. “Twenty-five percent will still be in their 50’s, and close to half will be under 63.’'

“It is obvious,’' he said, “that this largely ignored and untapped pool of well-trained and educated men and women can make an enormous difference if the education community is prepared to accept and work with them.’'

District Interest

The group also surveyed 96 district school superintendents in locations adjacent to eight industrial facilities to ascertain their interest in hiring such “second career’’ teachers. It found:

  • In six of the eight geographic areas, the school administrators indicated that more math and science teachers would be needed in the next five years than have been hired in the past five years.
  • Administrators in 57 of the 70 responding school districts expressed positive reactions to the idea of recruiting private-sector personnel for careers in the public schools. Approximately 76 percent were interested in the idea of recruiting retired military personnel.
  • Fifty-two of the districts expressed interest in working with the N.E.S.C. and a nearby corporate facility to pilot-test a program for recruiting and retraining private-sector employees to teach.

White Males

The NESC survey of military and industrial employees also found:

  • Most of the respondents were male and white. Only 6 percent identified themselves as members of a minority group.
  • Three-fourths of those interested in teaching said they were willing to take required education courses and do practice teaching if their companies would provide release time for such activities.

But 83 percent of military personnel and nearly 90 percent of industrial personnel said they would be more inclined to become a teacher if certification requirements were changed to eliminate the need for education courses.

  • Most preferred teaching at the high-school level.

The NESC also held discussions with a variety of people affiliated with teachers’ organizations, training institutions, and policymaking groups. Reactions were varied, according to officials, who said that, in general, all groups were supportive of the program.

Choosing Sites

In choosing the demonstration sites, the NESC will give attention to their geographic and demographic distribution, and whether they represent the Army, Navy, or private industry. It will also focus on areas where there is an acknowledged or projected shortage of math and science teachers, that are near schools of education willing to develop innovative programs, and that are close to school districts interested in hiring second-career teachers.

The organization will work with teacher-training organizations to encourage the design of special education-related courses for these individuals, as well as opportunities for student teaching. The NESC’s goal is that by the end of the first year of the program, a number of teacher candidates will be ready to begin internships in local high schools.

A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 1987 edition of Education Week as Effort Entices Military, Business Retirees Into Teaching