Huge Opportunities Abound If You know Where to Look

Market Insight
Charles Sosnik

In business, change spells opportunity.

In education today, changes are monumental. Some are already happening. Some are imminent. And some of the biggest are staring us in the face with no apparent solution. Those may be the biggest opportunities of them all.

One change in particular threatens to shake the education world by its roots, yet no one is talking about it and the company that helps solve it may find riches beyond comprehension. It’s an opportunity that is obvious, yet its solution is seemingly unobtainable, like the prettiest girl in school that doesn’t get asked to the prom.

We are experiencing a teacher shortage that will grow exponentially in the next few years and may force changes in school operations on a monumental scale in the next decade.

Over the last eight years, we have seen a 37 percent decrease in the number of college students enrolled in teacher prep programs.

Add to that, the fact that many states are losing a quarter of their new teachers after the first year and our new teachers are Millennials with no expectation of long-term employment, and we have a teacher to student ratio that just doesn’t add up.

Here are a few additional facts to add to the mix:

  • Almost half (46 percent) of teachers who graduated from a school of education and accepted employment in a US school district will leave the profession altogether within the first five years.
  • In the past eight years, the number of students enrolled in traditional schools of education in the U.S. has dropped from 609,106 to 337,690
  • By 2025, the number of new teachers needed is expected to be over 300,000 per year, while the expected supply of new teachers is expected to be just over 100,000.

The problem won’t just address itself, and the public sector seems to be sticking its head in the sand, choosing to ignore the situation instead of proposing any type of bold initiatives that might make a dent in the coming tsunami.

That leaves you, the private sector, to tackle the problem. Should the answer come from new teacher certification businesses, much like a coding bootcamp? Could EdTech be the answer? Should we turn to conversational AI? Intelligent teaching robots? What does (or should) the future of teaching and learning look like?

For a little context, I asked LeiLani Cauthen, CEO of the Learning Counsel and one of the most respected education futurists on the planet. According to Cauthen, even with the use of technology to select, sort and personalize curriculum for students, the need for teachers won’t go away. That said, the roles for teachers will look very different in the coming years.

“There will be more employment needed, not less,” said Cauthen, “but some of the roles will change. There’s more to this discussion, but the top-line rough estimates are that the 3.3 million-or-so K-12 teaching jobs will eventually change roughly as follows:

“Approximately 50 percent of teaching jobs will go into prep and analytics to provide totally personalized learning pathways. The role will get into the deep use of analytics showing what a student may be missing in the length of time it takes them to complete a task, what quizzes and tests reveal, cross-analysis of their interests and more in order to adjudicate next steps. This moves subject expertise into a “back office” function and can be done from anywhere, untethering this role from place. A portion of this work may be outside support services contracted with schools or districts.

“Approximately 25 percent will be in traditional lecturing, direct instruction, and a modified all-subject homeroom type classroom, plus labs of all kinds, sports fields and office one-on-one subject-expertise meets.  This role monitors live on-site work in physical schools as scheduled by planners predicting which cohort of students is about to arrive at a needed lecture moment (like Uber schedules you with a driver). 

“Approximately 25% will be para-professionals possibly mixed with fully credentialed teachers doing the following:

  • Online support/chat-window or conference, either employed by a school or by a courseware company contracted with the school or via a student-purchased subscription.  
  • Staging for the direct instruction teachers such as gathering the science lab materials needed before instructor and students arrive, plus other small and large group project-based learning duties.  
  • Data entry flanking the instructor so that information gets back to the planners to continue to level-up the personalization and next stages for each student.”

Every problem is an opportunity. The greater the problem, the greater the potential reward. With that in mind, I’d like to challenge the entire education business community to begin the process of fixing the teacher shortage. Let’s start with the premise that failure is not an option, and the answer will come from the private sector. I’ll volunteer to take the point on this one (email me at, at least to get us started. Send me any ideas you have and we’ll put together an executive committee to make this happen. Because this is a business opportunity, I expect there will be a profit driven solution. It’s a big problem, and there is a lot of money to be made here.

Now, let’s get to work.


About the Author

Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor, and serves as editor in chief at the Learning Counsel.









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