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EDUCATION REPORT - Teachers in America - 2004-08-18

Broadcast: August 19, 2004

This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Experts say the United States will need more than two million new teachers in the next ten years. More than one million public school teachers are close to retirement. So schools will have to do more to get people to become teachers.

The National Education Association says the shortage of teachers from racial and ethnic minorities is especially great. The N.E.A. is the largest teachers union in the country.

The government last counted teachers in two thousand. It found that eighty-four percent were white, compared to sixty-one percent of students.

African Americans were about seventeen percent of the children in public schools. This was true of less than eight percent of the teachers. And Hispanics represented about sixteen percent of the students but less than six percent of the teachers.

There has been some change in these numbers. In all, sixteen percent of teachers are minorities. But this is true of twenty-one percent of new teachers.

Many people, however, say they do not enter teaching because it gets less respect than other professions. Only about ten percent of teachers in the lower grades are male, compared to nearly fifty percent in the upper grades. Also, demand for minority college graduates means these job seekers can often get other work that pays more.

Teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In some areas, they must earn a master’s degree within a few years to keep their jobs. But keeping new teachers can be difficult. About twenty percent leave the profession within three years. In cities, close to fifty percent leave in the first five years.

Teachers say they are not paid enough for all of the duties and responsibilities they have. Many take work home with them during the school year and vacations. Many also take classes to increase their knowledge and skills. And many say they do not get enough help from more experienced teachers or support from school officials.

The N.E.A. says teachers spend an average of more than four hundred dollars of their own money each year on classroom materials. Some do it because they want to; others might have little choice. Yet the union reported a year ago that a majority of teachers said they would return to the profession if they had it all to do again.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Gwen Outen.