School reformer addresses teacher shortage

Nov. 13, 2000 5:40 p.m.

Efforts to improve America's school systems are greatly hindered by the shortage of qualified teachers throughout the nation, Baltimore education reformer John P. Sarbanes suggested at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs last week.

"We have a shortage, yet the expectations of the teachers we have is greater than ever before," said Sarbanes, special assistant for the Baltimore City-State Education Reform Partnership, citing projections that the shortage of teachers will reach 2.5 million over the next 10 years.

He advocated hiring strategies that seek out teachers who bring more than factual knowledge to the classroom. "While there is certainly a crisis surrounding the shortage of educators, there is a graver crisis surrounding the supply of critical thinkers able to move forward in the service economy," said Sarbanes, a member of Princeton's class of 1984. He suggested that today's classrooms need critical thinkers who can "think outside the bounds of traditional pedagogical formats."

Sarbanes called upon Princeton and other Ivy League institutions -- and their graduates -- to do more to bring about change, saying they could play an important role in reshaping the definition of a teacher. But he acknowledged that most state governments do not currently have the funding necessary to entice such graduates with competitive compensation and support packages. (At Princeton, the Teacher Preparation Program works to prepare new graduates for public and private-school classrooms.)

Sarbanes, a partner in the Baltimore-based law firm of Venable, Baejter, Howard and Civiletti, began his efforts in education reform by offering pro bono legal services for groups in Baltimore seeking school consolidation.

The lecture was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School and the Program in Law and Public Affairs.

Contact: Justin Harmon (609) 258-3601