Parents used to relying on tax-supported public schools six to seven hours a day, 180 days a year, are being introduced to a situation that existed for most of the long history of education.
In most of human history, parents who wanted their children to learn to read paid someone to do it or did it themselves.
Even before the pandemic, fewer young people were willing to incur school loans to prepare for a difficult and increasingly dangerous occupation that offers little financial incentive or professional respect. In the present situation, the richest schools are finding themselves lacking qualified teachers.
Warm bodies to the rescue
The governor of New Mexico is asking National Guard members and state workers “to volunteer to become licensed pre-k teachers or childcare workers” to ease the shortages in that state.
To become a licensed substitute teacher for pre-K through 12th grade in New Mexico, volunteers are required to undergo a background check and take a two-day online teaching course.
The governor of Michigan also seems to feel that anyone can do the job of a teacher:
LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is reviewing a bill that would let janitors, secretaries and bus drivers substitute teach. It aims to help fill vacancies school districts, including here in West Michigan, are struggling to fill.
Such seat-of-the-pants solutions for staffing schoolrooms are an ominous foreshadowing of what could be the future of public schools if meaningful reforms to attract new teachers are not put in place.
Where have all the potential teachers gone?
In Michigan, students enrolled in teacher-preparation programs dropped from 18,483 in the 2013-14 school year to 9,760 in the 2019-2020 school year. Students completing the programs in 2020 were half what they were in 2014.
In Louisiana, students studying to become teachers have declined from 960 in 2011 to 376, according to most recent numbers.
Oklahoma City University has suspended its early childhood and elementary education program altogether: not enough students to justify the expense of keeping it.
The Oklahoma example is perhaps the most chilling.
Crucial years in jeopardy
Some folks may imagine that high school and college are the most significant educational years.
The most significant school years are grades K-3.
In these years, children are introduced to reading.
Children who do not master reading essentials by the end of third grade will most likely remain behind academically from then on.
According to the national Research Council,
academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.
Parents cannot afford to gamble that their local school still has qualified elementary teachers. The only way to ensure the success of beginning readers in these uncertain times is for parents to take on the task themselves. The AmericanEnglishDoctor site can show them how.