An article from the December 2010 issue of the McKinsey Quarterly. It's worth reading, not because it proposes something new that we don't know about, but rather because it underscores something we do know...and which continues to be relevant to our hiring efforts: affordability of being a teacher. In other words, top college graduates are eschewing teaching because they don't see it as a viable option for supporting a family. I might argue, though, that they haven't considered the merits of working for a boarding school (most notably the housing benefit); some day schools still offer housing as well. That (housing) tends to be a significant factor, when it comes to disposable income. Of course, when college grads see friends or acquaintances entering other fields and pulling down six figures, that makes it difficult to consider teaching as well. That's always been the case, but one wonders whether a potentially inflationary environment over the next few years will exacerbate that issue.
Chart Focus Newsletter
Why top students don’t want to teach
Efforts to help US schools become more effective generally focus on improving the skills of current teachers or keeping the best and ejecting the least effective ones. The issue of who should actually become teachers has received comparatively little attention. Yet the world’s top-performing systems—in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea—recruit 100 percent of their teaching corps from students in the top third of their classes.
A McKinsey survey of nearly 1,500 top-third US college students confirms that a major effort would be needed to attract them to teaching. Among top-third students not planning to enter the profession, for example, only 33 percent believe that they would be able to support a family if they did. The stakes are high: recent McKinsey research found that an ongoing achievement gap between US students and those in academically top-performing countries imposes the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession. To learn more, read “Attracting and retaining top talent in US teaching” (September 2010).