Recently, the media have shared the concerns of school systems struggling to recruit educators into their classrooms. Nationwide, teacher preparation programs also report insufficient enrollment to furnish the replacements for the looming wave of baby-boomer retirements. These stories are becoming a rite of autumn. Late each spring, thousands-upon-thousands of teachers – most of whom are […]
Recently, the media have shared the concerns of school systems struggling to recruit educators into their classrooms. Nationwide, teacher preparation programs also report insufficient enrollment to furnish the replacements for the looming wave of baby-boomer retirements.
These stories are becoming a rite of autumn.
Late each spring, thousands-upon-thousands of teachers – most of whom are effective practitioners in the classroom – pack up their materials one last time, raise the white flag of surrender and tender letters of resignation. The issue is most apparent in regions with high concentrations of poverty; it is not uncommon for such schools to experience a complete turnover of the faculty every few years. Dr. Richard Ingersoll estimated that in excess of 50 percent of teachers do not make it to a sixth year in the classroom.
Not all teachers leave the profession; this is true. A tiny portion will receive promotions. A larger group will migrate to greener pastures. Too many, however, succumb to the despair of unwieldy demands in the workplace and simply find another line of work.
Last year, a soon-to-be-former successful teacher, when asked what she would do next, responded tearfully, “Anything else!” She doubled her salary and works in the IT industry, now.
What is it like to teach in 2015? With but the rarest of exceptions, the teaching profession is characterized by lack of professional autonomy in addressing the educational needs of children, excessive intrusions on personal time, archaic resources, unreasonable caseloads, obsolete facilities, inadequate supports and, to top it all off, vilification by the punditry and the political class.
Working conditions are so generally abhorrent that slightly more than 9 percent of the nation’s teaching force of 4.5 million fails to survive even the first year in public education. Every single year, several hundred thousand teachers simply walk away from a teaching credential that required several years to obtain.
So, the teacher shortage does not really exist. The nearly constant churn in the teaching force suggests, instead, the more intractable problem of economically-challenged school systems lacking the capacity to place committed educators in a position to effect positive change in the lives of children. Change that dynamic and a horde of former educators stands ready to return to the classroom.
The National Center on Teacher Quality has proposed five ways that school districts might stem the constant hemorrhaging of potential career teacher. NCTQ proposes the creation of improved career pathways, addressing inequities in teacher placements, embracing teacher-led professional development, more job-imbedded time for collaboration and untethering teacher evaluation from tests. Yes, cost implications abound.
Unless the community is content to stifle the aspirations of educators and squander the dreams of children, the focus must soon shift away from annual recruitment of novices to teaching and over to the retention of more experienced, highly effective educators in the classroom. Our students deserve nothing less, for as Nelson Mandela observed, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”