Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Costs of Our Teachers Opting Out | John Ewing

The Costs of Our Teachers Opting Out | John Ewing:

The Costs of Our Teachers Opting Out

As another school year gets underway, the public receives its annual dose of hand wringing about the state of American education. In the past few weeks, we have read about massive "failures" as districts and states report scores from last year's tests, about the rise of the opt-out movement, about parental unease with the Common Core, and about teacher shortages spreading across the country.
Editorials excoriate public schools; pundits offer glib solutions; politicians excoriate "whining" teachers and their unions, which, we are told, have brought education to this state of affairs.
This ritual of education bashing has become so commonplace that it's easy not to notice and move on. But we ought to notice because the annual lamentation is causing great damage. Because of it, confidence in public schools has fallen by nearly half over the past four decades, from roughly 60 percent to below 30. Because of it, job satisfaction for teachers has fallen dramatically, from 62 percent to 39 percent in just five years. And because of it, experienced, accomplished teachers are leaving classrooms in droves, while interest in teacher training programs is plummeting.
Each year, about 13 percent of the nation's roughly 3.5 million teachers either move to a different school or opt-out of teaching altogether. This means schools are in a perennial scramble to find replacements. Some see recruitment programs such as Teach for America as the answer. But filling classrooms with bright people with little training or support is not much of a solution. A few recruits succeed, growing into talented and passionate long-term educators, but many more struggle and leave after a year or two. Recruitment is important, but until we find ways to retain outstanding teachers we will be pumping water out of a sinking ship instead of plugging the holes.
Even more concerning, such programs are predicated on the belief that great teaching requires only enthusiasm and determination, not deep knowledge and carefully-honed skills. By perpetuating this view, they demean the profession and ultimately reduce its prestige. These programs may attract plenty of college graduates eager to burnish their resumes, but until teaching is viewed as a respected profession that requires both talent and training, our best and brightest will never consider it a career.
Study after study shows that experience counts in teaching. While recruitment may be an immediate need, retaining a workforce of outstanding, experienced educators is the ultimate goal.
So what do we do?

First, stop casting teachers as the cause of the problem rather than partners in the The Costs of Our Teachers Opting Out | John Ewing: