California, New York and Texas are among the states seeing the biggest drops. According to state-by-state enrollment data collected under Title II of the Higher Education Act, the decline in the number of students seeking a teaching degree has accelerated, although not all states are experiencing declines.

Calling all teachers

There is a projected need for more than 1 million new teachers over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education shows a shortage of teachers in English, math, science and special education.

“Teachers have a lot of responsibility. Their performance is measured by how well students perform on standardized tests."

Karen Blaettler teaches middle school science at White Mountain Middle School in White City, Oregon. During her 21 years in the profession, she has seen a lot of changes. She concurs that fewer people are becoming a teacher today. Part of this is due to the negative press surrounding teaching as a profession.

Teachers have become scapegoats and are criticized for the failings of the educational system. There are a lot of challenges facing new teachers.

Turning the tide

The Common Core State Standards have changed the way teachers teach. The standards are set up to ensure students coming out of school have a common knowledge base to be competitive in the job market.

“Teachers have a lot of responsibility,” said Blaettler. Their performance is measured by how well students perform on standardized tests. Students fall behind for a lot of reasons. For someone entering the profession, it’s hard to think about being evaluated on things you can’t change. “You can’t change kids in poverty,” said Blaettler. Yet, it’s easier to say the educational system is failing rather than the social system.

It can be overwhelming for new teachers. “It’s discouraging,” said Blaettler, adding someone would have to think pretty hard about becoming a teacher. Although faced with many challenges, teaching can be one of the most rewarding professions. “You’re making a contribution for the future,” said Blaettler.