Brian Scarbeau and I had an interesting conversation in Atlanta last week. Brian blogged about some of it. One of the concerns we both have is the shrinking pool of high school computer science teachers. A friend of ours just left teaching to take a job in industry. (of course I have done the same thing I admit.) Many of the computer science teachers we saw at the CS & IT symposium and that I saw at NECC last week are older. Not old really but a lot closer to retirement than to the beginning of their career. A good number of great teachers have retired in the last couple of years and that will only continue in the near future.
So who is going to take over for these teachers. In far too many cases no one is. There are schools where the computer science program has basically died after a teacher has retired because there was no one to replace them. We don’t see a whole lot of young people moving in to take their places. There is a growing shortage of teachers in general of course. And high demand jobs like math and science teachers are leading the list of specialties in short supply.
Let’s face it, if you really know your stuff in computer science you can make some good money in industry. But even if you feel a calling to teaching (and I feel it still and hope to get back to it some day) the system doesn’t make it easy for you. There is no national standard for certifying computer science teachers. And in fact more states than not have a complete mess when it comes to certification for CS teachers. Often one has to be a either a math (ok close) or a business (what?) teacher to teach computer science. There is seldom a stand alone CS teacher certification. In fact if there is one I am not sure I know where it is. How do you even know what/how to prepare?
There are a bunch of problems here. At yet teaching high school and even middle school students (some people love teaching middle school others prefer other grades) computer science is a wonderful, enjoyable and rewarding career. But it is hard to communicate that in a society that keeps score based on income. We really need to find a solution here and not just for computer science education but for education in general.