Why Are Fewer People Becoming Teachers?

Why Are Fewer People Becoming Teachers?

The competition for labor has never been more intense. Employers have more job openings than ever before, and there are fewer potential employees to fill those roles. The unemployment rate is near pre-pandemic lows, and there are few working-age adults who are not already employed.

These labor problems are hitting schools particularly hard. Even flush with a surge of federal dollars, districts simply can’t hire as many people as they would like to.

The supply of new teachers is also down significantly. Depending on the data source, there are 20 to 30 percent fewer people going into teaching each year than there were a decade ago. Those numbers are not likely to rebound quickly.

What caused the decline in teacher-preparation enrollments and completions? Until we diagnose the problem accurately, we won’t be able to devise solutions to fix it. To that end, I offer a few theories below and attempt to unpack how much truth there is behind each one.

What does the data say?

Whichever theories we have for the decline in teacher-preparation completions, they need to fit the facts. We know that teacher-preparation enrollments and completions are down, but by how much, and when did the declines start?


Chad Aldeman is policy director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.

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