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Ohio Trains More Teachers Than It Needs

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Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Melissa Beaune is studying to be an elementary school teacher.

Like many education majors, Melissa Beaune knew it would be tough to find a job after graduation, especially since she wanted to work with young children. Beaune, a sophomore at Cleveland State University, thought—briefly—about going into a medical field where jobs might be more plentiful.

But science and math were  never really her things.

She wanted to teach.

“I kind of based that decision on what I would wake up and love doing every day,” she said.

That’s the same reasoning that continues to draw thousands of new students into Ohio colleges of education each year

Fewer new teachers are graduating from Ohio’s colleges of education today than in years past. But Ohio still trains more new teachers than it actually needs. That forces some newly minted teachers to move out of state if they want to teach, or move to plan B.

Ohio schools are expected to need about 4,900 teachers a year through 2020 to fill new jobs and replace teachers who leave, according to state labor market projections. But more than 6,000 new teachers graduated from colleges of education in 2010, according to Ohio’s most recent reports to the U.S. Department of Education on teacher training programs.

That means that Ohio colleges produce about 1,000 more new teachers a year than there are jobs openings.

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“There's still that optimism that a lot of 18- and 19-year olds have that they're going to be the ones who are going to make it,” said Kent State University College of Education, Health and Human Services Dean Daniel Mahony.

And they can make it—they just have to be flexible, some educators say.

Some new teachers end up moving out of Ohio, to places where school enrollments are growing more rapidly. Out-of-state recruiters from states like Nevada, the Carolinas, Florida and Texas show up at Ohio job teacher job fairs every year.

Many new teachers take jobs at charter schools rather than traditional public schools, even though the pay may be lower and the jobs almost always lack union protection.

And some education majors start college with a plan B.

Stefanie Gaudion has wanted to work with children with disabilities since she volunteered in a special education classroom in her middle school. She’s now a junior at Cleveland State and studying to be to be a special education teacher for students with moderate to severe disabilities.

In a way, Gaudion is lucky. Special education—along with secondary science and math—is  among the areas of teaching where future teachers face better odds of landing a job. (Early elementary teachers face the worst odds.)

Stefanie Gaudion wants to teach children with disabilities.

But Gaudion still has a backup plan in case she doesn’t find a teaching job after graduation. She’s minoring in speech and hearing science. If she needs to, she figures she can go back to school, take a few more classes and apply to graduate school to train to be a speech-language pathologist.

“They say I’m almost guaranteed a job there,” she said.

Failing to find jobs in schools, some teachers enter fields closer to their disciplines, said Jane Zaharias, an associate dean at Cleveland State University’s College of Education.

Some who hoped to be chemistry teachers go into research labs; English majors go, well, lots of different places. Some education graduates opt for related fields like counseling or training adult workers or social services.

The transition can be harder for early childhood teachers. Some end up working at daycare centers, Zaharias said.

Others say the over-supply of teachers means colleges of education should be more selective. Some state legislators say Ohio should copy “educational powerhouses” like Singapore and Finland that only admit top students into teacher training programs.

[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]“I kind of based that decision on what I would wake up and love doing every day."

--Melissa Beaune, Student, Cleveland State University[/module]

At most Ohio colleges and universities, the ACT score required to enter the school’s college of education is lower than the ACT scores of most students admitted to the school.

Still, the idea of telling some students that they’re just not cut out to be teachers worries Daniel Mahony, the dean at Kent State’s college of education.

“Particularly when someone's 17 or 18 years old, deciding if someone would be a great teacher isn't easy,” he said. “I'm always concerned that we're trying to predict way too early.”

The teacher glut soon may subside. Recent changes to teacher pensions give older teachers incentives to retire sooner: Teachers who retire after July 1, 2013 won’t receive cost of living increases until 2018. And starting in 2015, age and length-of-service requirements will start to rise.

That is likely to create more job vacancies for new teachers.

“Those people who are out there in the wings right now, I think those people are going to find the door open for them to enter the teaching profession,” Cleveland State’s Jane Zaharias said.

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