Department of Education Sets Out to Woo Top Students to Teaching: Hype or a Real Sea Change?

The federal Department of Education is spearheading an advertising campaign aimed at attracting top college students to the field of education. The campaign “…uses video spots and radio announcements that portray teaching as creative, invigorating and meaningful, and as compelling a career as medicine, acting or engineering.”

The catalyst for the campaign is both the recognition that baby boomer teachers  approaching retirement must be replaced, and also that nations that regularly produce top graduates generally recruit from the upper echelon of college students. At the moment most of our nation’s best students do not become teachers.

The trouble with the campaign as described in today’s New York Times is that it does nothing to address the conditions that currently make teaching such an undesirable profession for top graduates. No mention was made in the article of a shift that would enable top graduates to use their talents. Will hours in the classroom be shorter so the potential of teachers can be maximized? Will pay be significantly better so that teachers do not have to forsake the good income enjoyed by other professionals? Will the profession be redesigned to allow for professional growth and a satisfying career track?

An advertising campaign is a good idea, but only if the product being advertised is worthy of the campaign. Most top candidates will not like working in the field of teaching as it is configured today.

Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.