The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future just released a study indicating that half of our nation’s teachers could retire in the next 10 years and calling for districts to restructure their hiring practices. Check out the article I wrote about it for teachermagazine.org here.
Predictions about en masse retirements come up every so often, and I tend to be wary when they are apocalyptic in scope. (NCTAF head Tom Carroll even warns of a “retirement tsunami.”) As Sam Dillon notes in The New York Times, the Department of Education made a similar prediction in 1999 and nothing materialized. Also, see the five-part series Education Week did on the subject that same year.
Yet in speaking with Carroll over the phone, it became clear that his ideas are grander and more progressive than the report could contain. He wants an education overhaul, in which classes are fluid and taught by a variety of people: teacher apprentices, master teachers, content experts, and neighborhood volunteers. It’s an idea that could begin in an education theory class, yet Carroll is hoping the bleak retirement picture—and the dangling stimulus money—could help bring it to fruition.
Some of his ideas are revolutionary. Imagine a biology professor running in from his university lab to teach a high school lesson on cellular respiration. Yet it all seems quite far away.
In some ways, Carroll is synthesizing practices that are already in place. The report focuses on building collaborative learning teams, and right now, professional learning communities are quite in fashion. Mentoring and coaching, also part of Carroll’s plan, are staples in most districts, and some are even using retirees for the job.
So while it’s possible that the retirement numbers will be less than catastrophic, Carroll does have ideas on retaining veteran and beginning teachers that are already proving valuable.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.