In the wake of an expected wave of retirements in the nation’s teaching ranks in the coming decade, educational experts predict that as many as 2 million new public school teachers may be needed in the next decade. In Washington state alone that means about 40,000 new teachers.
“The number of postwar baby boomers that went into the teaching profession in the 60’s are now completing 30 years of service and approaching retirement,” said Dennis Ray, director of Washington State University’s Center for Educational Partnerships in the College of Education. “We are now seeing those teachers at the front end of the baby boom who will retire in the next five to10 years,” Ray said.
For principals and superintendents, the current and impending shortage of educational leaders is even more critical, according to Ray.
“The retirement bubble is 25 percent for principals and superintendents, and 15 percent for teachers. Washington state now has about 2,000 principals and 300 superintendents,” he said. “A greater percentage of the state’s educational leadership cohort will be retiring than the teaching cohort. We’re already in the midst of this retirement wave and are seeing the front end of this. Over the next decade it will peak and then tail off.”
In addition to those retirements, the impending shortage of K-12 educators is exacerbated by a rising birth rate – the so-called “baby boom echo” – and a significant increase of in-migration into Washington state in recent years, according to Ray.
The 24 colleges now offering education degrees in Washington state produce about 2,000 new teachers annually, while another 2,000 move to the Seattle-Puget Sound area from other states. Teachers coming into the profession are better qualified than they ever have been, said Ray. But, the issue of what constitutes qualified is coming under more scrutiny.
“WSU, along with its K-12 colleagues, is learning about performance-based education. We have an obligation to prepare teachers to enter a teaching environment that will be more dependent on technology, teamwork and collaboration. They will be teaching in schools that will have closer connections to the community, a stronger focus on kids and accountability – i.e., what is mandated by the state’s new essential academic learning requirements.”
Prior to joining Washington State University, Ray served as superintendent of the Northshore School District in Bothell for four years and superintendent of the Walla Walla School District for 10 years. A public school teacher and administrator for 30 years, Ray directs WSU’s Field-Based Superintendent’s Certification program, which now serves more aspiring superintendents than the combined enrollment of the other four superintendent preparation programs in the state.