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Half of teachers leave the job after five years. Here’s what to do about it

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Amid intense debate about new education standards, and teacher tenure and pay, the Alliance for Excellent Education has turned the focus to new teachers – and their tendency to quit.

A new report, published by the Alliance in collaboration with the New Teacher Center (NTC), a non-profit that helps schools and policymakers develop training for new educators, found that about 13 percent of the nation’s 3.4 million teachers move schools or leave the profession every year, costing states up to $2 billion. Researchers estimate that over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years.

Katie Bonfiglio, a 9th grade English Teacher at Arlington High School is part of a nationwide push underway to dramatically improve teacher training and evaluation through recording classes, then reviewing critiquing the footage. Arlington uses video routinely in teacher training and evaluation. Here she teaches her (Michelle Pemberton/The Star)

Katie Bonfiglio, a 9th grade English Teacher at Arlington High School. (Michelle Pemberton/The Star)

The high turnover rates are sometimes due to layoffs, “but the primary reason they leave is because they’re dissatisfied,” said Richard Ingersoll, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose research on teacher retention was published in the report. Teachers say they leave because of inadequate administrative support and isolated working conditions, among other things. These losses disproportionately affect high-poverty, urban and rural schools, where teaching staffs often lack experience.

A Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) report found that schools serving low-income, minority students turn over half of their staffs every three years, deepening the divide between poor and wealthy students to the most experienced teachers.

But the new report says poor retention isn’t a commitment problem. It’s a support problem.

A National Center for Education Statistics survey found a correlation between the level of support and training provided to new teachers and their likelihood of leaving after the first year. So the Alliance and NTC have concluded that new teachers need more on-the-job training and mentor programs for the first two years that’s designed to keep them in the profession.

Called “comprehensive induction,” the training should include a high-quality, pre-screened mentor who is an experienced teacher, common planning time with other teachers, regular and rigorous training, and ongoing contact with school leaders, like principals and district officials, according to the NTC and Alliance report.

Ingersoll says studies prove these programs work, but that the quality of them is inconsistent across schools, districts, and states.

“It’s no surprise that reforms centered around induction and support for beginning teachers has become a trend,” said Ingersoll.

The report suggests that these mentorship programs be required for new teachers to earn full licensure, and stresses the importance of schools giving mentor teachers time and compensation to support novice teachers. It also recommends regular evaluations of new teachers, school-wide analysis of teacher learning conditions and environment, and district responsibility to distribute effective teachers evenly across schools.

“It’s way more than giving them a mentor,” said Ellen Moir, founder of the NTC.

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“The report suggests that these mentorship programs be required for new teachers to earn full licensure, and stresses the importance of schools giving mentor teachers time and compensation to support novice teachers. It also recommends regular evaluations of new teachers, school-wide analysis of teacher learning conditions and environment, and district responsibility to distribute effective teachers evenly across schools.”…Has any of these researchers actually been a teacher? Much less in super challenging classrooms? A new teacher needs a good education themselves before teaching and not to be hazed. Many times new teachers are loaded with classroom makeups to “test” them. That kind of thinking and practice is unacceptable. Additionally, teachers in the U.S. spend more time with students than in many other nations. New and seasoned teachers alike need teaching hours cut and those hours used for planning, grading, and preparation. They don’t need more meetings, more hours added, or to be treated as if they are unintelligent. They need school boards and principals willing to send clear messages and keep high standards of learning and behavior with students and parents. No teacher needs administrators and politicians bashing them or scared of dealing with parents.

Renee Moore

Over at the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) Collaboratory, teachers from around the world have been discussing this topic too (http://www.teachingquality.org/content/creating-the-conditions-for-teachers-to-be-effective). In my state, lack of administrative support has been the number one reason for teachers leaving schools. While I applaud the efforts of the Alliance, NTC, and others who are working to improve the quality of mentoring, somebody needs to be taking a really serious look at the quality of our school administrators and district policies that make it unnecessarily more difficult for teachers to do our work.

Debra

Taught 35 years and never saw a teacher quit. Many were let go due to budget cuts however. Doubt that that was included in this “study”.

Sally Palmer

New teachers leave schools in high needs (poverty) areas much more often because teaching in those schools can be very demanding and stressful. There are rewards, but it is a much tougher row to hoe than teaching in a middle class school. It’s time to recognize that reality.

S Young

35 year veteran, now retired: I saw a lot of my younger colleagues leave over the years– I started in the 70s when my mentor colleagues had all begun in the 40s in one-room schools. These of course were the survivors who were still around, mostly superb educators who had seen it all and done most of it. Learned everything I could from several of them.

By the time I was done I was a paid mentor for younger colleagues entering the profession–kind of hit or miss, but again most of them were super individuals. The one change I experienced more than any other? The EXIT from the profession of those who never wanted to teach in the first place, mostly women who’d become teachers in the 1940s thru 1970s partly because they wanted a professional job but didn’t like bodily funds (nursing). They had to be super pioneers to become something other than a nurse or teacher, & some got stuck in a career they really didn’t like. Those people slowly disappeared from the schools where I worked, & it was laughable that kids still picked out a “mean teacher” to be mad at. (You know, the type that doesn’t give out candy very often. )

Why do other teachers leave ? From what I saw the two main reasons were 1) disenchantment with the realities of classroom life– it’s not as fun as it looks to a student, and it can get pretty repetitive if you’re not creative. 2) the typical life of a young wife, i.e. she moves to follow her husband’s career: Yes it still happens a lot, or she takes maternity leave to start a family and doesn’t come back.

Burnout? yes, saw a bit but a lot of burnout is experienced by those who cannot leave & for whatever reason they feel trapped in their deadend job.

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