Friday, July 13, 2007

Commentary: Teacher Turnover

I just learned that close to ten teachers from my school will not be returning to work with me in 4 weeks. Last year I was one of 6 new teachers to our school. Only 2 of those six are returning with me this year. Three out of the four who left, left the profession completely. Two of those three were "new" teachers.

As I agonize over what must be wrong in our school that we have such high teacher turnover, all I have to do is look to my right and look to my left to see that this is not our school's problem, but EVERY school's problem.

According to a recent study from the Washington-based National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, teacher turnover is "spiraling out of control" with more than $7.3 billion in turnover costs. These costs include expenses incurred to recruit, hire, and train teachers.

The U.S. Department of Education's Schools & Staffing Survey revealed that the current "burn out" rate for teachers in 2.5 years. This is a ridiculously short period of time! They're not even there long enough to know what they're doing.

What this means to local schools, parents and students is that you're always starting over. The detrimental impact is felt even more when more than one teacher fills a particular position in one year. Last year 4 teachers cycled through one science position. The first moved to a county level position, was replaced with a long term substitute, then replaced by a returning teacher who had been out of the field for a number of years, who then left at Christmas and was replaced by a veteran teacher who planned to retire at the end of the school year.

Children suffered.

That's the bottom line.

Districts all over the country are scrambling for a plan to attract and retain excellent teachers. Very few have had success. Principals can be proactive in their hiring to select teachers who fit precisely fit their school improvement plans, offer full time mentoring and slightly higher pay. But if we don't take a direct approach to this problem, it will no longer be within our grasp to solve.

How has teacher turnover affected your child or your school?