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As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It

Emma Goldberg, The New York Times via Yahoo News |

Few professions have been more upended by the pandemic than teaching, as school districts have vacillated between in-person, remote and hybrid models of learning, leaving teachers concerned for their health and scrambling to do their jobs effectively.

For students considering a profession in turmoil, the disruptions have seeded doubts, which can be seen in declining enrollment numbers.

A survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found that 19% of undergraduate-level and 11% of graduate-level teaching programs saw a significant drop in enrollment this year. And Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income schools across the country, said it had received fewer applications for its fall 2021 corps compared with this period last year.

Many program leaders believe enrollment fell because of the perceived hazards posed by in-person teaching and the difficulties of remote learning, combined with long-standing frustrations over low pay compared with professions that require similar levels of education. (The national average for a public school teacher’s salary is roughly $61,000.) Some are hopeful that enrollment will return to its pre-pandemic level as vaccines roll out and schools resume in-person learning.

But the challenges in teacher recruitment and retention run deeper. The number of education degrees conferred by U.S. colleges and universities dropped by 22% between 2006 and 2019, despite an overall increase in U.S. university graduates, stoking concerns about a future teacher shortage.

For some young people, doubts about entering the teaching workforce amid the pandemic are straightforward: They fear that the job now entails increased risk.

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