US teacher shortage: how to keep teachers from quitting
For the first time since 1990, educators and policymakers are concerned about teacher shortages. One answer: support current teachers.
Everyone remembers a favorite teacher – someone who noticed potential the potential of students, challenged them, or inspired them to dream. With rising class sizes and high rates of teacher turnover, students may be finding it harder now to build such relationships. In response, a growing number of educators and policymakers are looking to address teacher shortages.
Researchers at the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based think tank, concluded that most policymakers are tackling the wrong end of the problem: Don't just encourage people to join the profession, they say, find ways to keep them teaching once they get there.
Few teachers now work until retirement. Instead, many increasingly move to other professions, go into education administration, or stay home with their families.
In the United States, 8 percent of teachers leave the classroom each year – more than double the rate in Finland or Singapore. And those numbers go up for early-career teachers and those working in high-poverty areas.
The good news? Halving the rate of attrition – which would prevent 130,000 teaching jobs from opening up each year – could almost eliminate teacher shortages.
To help schools keep their teachers, LPI surveyed educators to identify the concerns that push teachers to leave. About 55 percent cited professional frustrations, including standardized testing, administrators, or the intrusions on teaching time. A further 18 percent cited financial reasons, including poor salaries, few benefits, and job insecurity.
“If we could prepare teachers well, mentor them when they come in, and give them decent working conditions, we would be very close to the 4 percent solution,” Linda Darling-Hammond, president and chief executive of LPI and co-author of the recent report, told NPR.
The report elaborates a number of ways to achieve those goals. Salaries competitive with other professions could make people more likely to choose – and stick with – teaching. A 2015 Department of Education study found that attrition among beginning teachers was at least 10 percentage points lower in states with starting salaries over $40,000.
Strong support for beginning teachers can reduce a teacher’s odds of leaving the profession in the first year from 41 percent to 18 percent, according to the report. That involves a combination of efforts: mentoring programs, shared planning time, strong teacher networks and resources such as a teacher’s aide.
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