College & Workforce Readiness

Interest in Teaching Continues to Drop Among High School Students

By Catherine Gewertz — July 06, 2016 1 min read
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High school students are becoming less and less interested in becoming teachers, a trend that’s picking up speed at an “alarming” rate, the ACT said Wednesday.

An ACT survey of high school graduates who took its college-entrance exam shows that in the class of 2015, only 4 percent said they planned to become teachers, counselors, or administrators. In 2014, 5 percent said they had such plans, and in 2010, 7 percent did. Twenty years ago, 9 percent of high school students who took the ACT said they were planning education careers.

Since the 1960s, the Iowa-based testmaker has surveyed the college and career plans of students who take the ACT and go on to graduate from high school. About 1.9 million such students are represented in the most recent survey, of the class of 2015. Only 87,653 said they were aiming for careers in education.

The ACT found a continuation of another disturbing trend in the survey as well: The students who plan to become educators are lower-than-average achievers. That finding is based on the proportion who met its college-readiness benchmarks, ACT scores that correlate with a good chance of getting at least Bs or Cs in college courses.

At a time when good teachers in the STEM field are in great demand, the students who took the ACT and said they aspired to be educators were particularly weak in math and science, the ACT report found.

Taken together, the findings are an “ominous” sign for the teaching pipeline, ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda said in a statement released with the report. “Combined with the fact that a teacher shortage already exists in many states and subject areas, these figures are very sobering,” the ACT report said.

Interest in teaching—at least among students who took the ACT—varied by state. Looking only at states where more than half of the students took the ACT, Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, and Arizona were particularly low: Only 3 percent of high school grads who took the ACT said they planned education careers. Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and West Virginia came out on the top end, with 8 percent of ACT-taking graduates saying they planned to enter an education field.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.