care to vote logo  
Charters and Choice

How can we give students options when their public schools are failing them?


Candidate Perspectives

College Access

College: Can't afford not to go, can't afford to go...


Candidate Perspectives


The Dropout Dilemma

What are the real costs of dropping out?


Candidate Perspectives

No Child Left Behind

What exactly is NCLB and how is it effecting our education system?


Pros and Cons

What's Next?

Candidate Perspectives

Early Childhood Education

How do we ensure that all children are prepared to enter kindergarten?


In Focus: Head Start

Candidate Perspectives


Why are we struggling to recruit and retain teachers? What reforms do the candidates propose to solve the teacher shortage and improve their working conditions?


Candidate Perspectives


With a struggling economy, should lawmakers place further emphasis on federally-funded school-to-work programs? Moreover, do they work?


Candidate Perspectives


Why do we need quality teachers?

male teacher

Many studies have shown that teachers have a very important influence on their students:


“The difference between having a good teacher and having a bad teacher can exceed one grade-level equivalent in annual achievement growth” (Hanushek, 1992).

“Teacher quality more heavily influenced differences in student performance than did race, class, or school of the student; disadvantaged students benefited more from good teachers than did advantaged students (Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004).

Teacher quality is the most important predictor of student achievement. “In comparison, class size, teacher education, and teacher experience play a small role” (Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain, 1998).

“Achievement gains from having an effective teacher could be almost three times as large for African American students than for white students, even when comparing students with the same prior school achievement” (Sanders & Rivers, 1996).


The Problems

empty classroom


Check it out! For more information on the teacher shortage, visit the National Education Association

More than ever, the United States needs to attract quality teachers.

  • Student enrollment in schools is rising, but more than a million veteran teachers are retiring.
  • Researchers predict that we will need more than 2 million new teachers in the next decade to compensate for the shortage (The National Education Association).
  • The problem of recruiting high quality teachers is most apparent in urban and rural high schools, especially for high-need areas like special education, math, and science.
  • In these areas, teachers are often assigned to teach outside of their academic field of specialty.


  • Compensation: Teachers are paid far less than professions that require similar levels of education and skills. Click Here for a table showing the Average and Beginning Teacher Salary in 2004-05 Ranked by Regions
  • Lack of professional respect: As a profession, teachers are under-valued in our society, in relation to the contributions that they make. Click Here for a table showing Employment and Salaries of 23 BLS Comparable Occupations 2000 and 2005.

Getting teachers in the classroom is only half the battle.

  • The teacher shortage is not simply an issue of attracting new teachers to the profession. How can we keep teachers in the classroom and create more career teachers?
  • Teacher turnover rates are alarmingly high. Close to 20% of all new teachers leave the profession within three years. In urban districts, close to 50% of teachers leave within five years (The National Education Association)


  • Stress: Being a new teacher is stressful and overwhelming. Many teachers feel isolated in their classrooms, and unaware of expectations.
  • Lack of support: Although they are subjected to the same expectations as veteran teachers, new teachers often do not receive mentoring and support needed to learn “best practices.”
  • No advancement: Often, new teachers receive the same benefits as career teachers. Veteran teachers need to get recognition for their achievements in the classroom.


In recent years, outside organizations (such as Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows) have developed in order to recruit and train teachers for schools in high-need areas. The effectiveness of these programs remains widely debated. For example, although they bring new, enthusiastic teachers into schools, they may not help to improve the turnover rate, as teachers only remain in the schools for two years. It is important to consider the ways that candidates will react to these programs as we continue to evaluate them as potential solutions to the teacher shortage.

Want to learn more about Teach for America?

To read a debate between Teach for America critic Carleton professor Deborah Appleman and Teach for America advocate Molly Klane (Carleton ’07) on the merit of the program, click here.
Defining an Important Issue: Incentive vs. Merit-based Pay
  What Is Merit-based Pay?  
  • Merit pay provides increased salaries or compensation to reward good performance. For teachers, this might include “master teacher” plans, and bonuses (to give a few examples). Teacher performance might be judged by their performance (lesson planning, classroom management, subject knowledge, ethics, growth, etc.) or the performance of their students.
  • Merit pay offers teachers the opportunity for professional advancement. They will be motivated to become teachers when they know they will be compensated for their growth and expertise.

Click here for more information on merit-based pay programs.

  What is Incentive-based Pay?  
  • Incentive pay offers teachers an incentive for working in low-income districts or other areas that arte usually difficult to staff.
  • Other types of incentive-based pay offer teachers rewards for student performance (specifically on standardized tests)

Click here for more information on incentive-based pay programs.

Click here for some educators’ opinions on the effectiveness of incentive pay.

See Candidate Perspectives on these issues

See Barack Obama's quotes on these same issues

See John McCain quotes on these same issues