EdTech 597: Discussion Entry-Teacher Retention

teacher retention


I recently came across an article on the Internet which I found to really hit home. The article was directed at teacher burnout and the turn over rate in the teaching profession. I found this interesting because I struggle each year when contracts are sent out as to whether or not I am going to sign my contract.  Don’t get me wrong….I love teaching. I also love the children, their parents, and my co workers. It is the bureaucracy that drives me crazy. I have been teaching for almost twenty years and have witnessed many changes in education. We no longer teach our students about the world, we teach them to memorize items that are on a test. Creativity in teaching is a thing of the past. Teachers are held accountable for high stakes test scores. It seems that I am not alone. According to the article, “current and former teachers lamented their chronically low pay — that was expected — but they also brought up their lack of autonomy, as classroom instruction is increasingly dictated by bureaucratic mandates.” One of the teachers interviewed stated:   “There are the days when you’re overwhelmed with paperwork, don’t have enough time for planning lessons, need time to collaborate with your peers, have parents that want meeting after meeting and still are never satisfied, and put in a load of overtime that the administration seems to expect but never recognizes with praise or compensation.”  I am also often overwhelmed with paper work and with what seems like unrealistic expectations from the administration. Ioften feel so defeated. I watched 19 veteran teachers leave the profession, or change schools, on the last day of school this year. I makes me very sad.  The article also stated:

 Each teacher who leaves costs a district $11,000 to replace, not including indirect costs related to schools’ lost investment in professional development, curriculum, and school-specific knowledge. At least 15 percent of K-12 teachers either switch schools or leave the profession every year, so the cost to school districts nationwide is staggering — an estimated $5.8 billion.

These are staggering figures. We are in the midst of an economic crisis. Districts cannot afford to be losing teachers. Something must be done to change the policies and attitudes that are now in place. I am not sure what could be done to elemenate teacher burnout. I feel the answer lies in radical change.

What are your thoughts on teacher retention?  What changes do the think need to be made to the current system to retain teachers? What problems do you see that cause the high rate of teacher turnover?

(Link to article: http://www.edutopia.org/schools-out#)


7 thoughts on “EdTech 597: Discussion Entry-Teacher Retention

  1. I found this post very thought provoking. I read it before I went to bed last night, and found myself mulling it over as I drifted off to sleep.

    I live in California, but I don’t teach in a public school. So, I don’t see a whole lot of turn-over in my school, but I read the countless articles about the laying off of teachers and furlough days in schools throughout the state. I think that so many teachers go into the profession with visions of the being a fun, creative, interesting teacher, only to be met with lots of paperwork, low resources, low pay, and no job security. They don’t get satisfaction from their job, so they seek other outlets. I can’t say I blame them!

    The educational system is so bureaucratic with choices about the state of affairs being made by people who have not been in a classroom since the day the graduated. In order to change the staggering figures you talk about, educational policy needs to think of teachers as much as they think of the children. Also, the importance “teach to the test” mentality needs to be lessened. Teachers need to have the freedom to develop the learner, rather than having them memorize facts, only to have them forgotten once the test is over.

    Of course, reforming education does not have a “quick fix,” but fixing the teacher retention rate would be a great place to start.

  2. Debbie, I’m been thinking about this for a bit. I was one of those that left the K-12 classroom after five year (one of substituting and four years full-time). Now the Canadian system, or at least the Newfoundland and Labrador system was a bit different, as the vast majority of teachers aren’t on annual contracts. Most of us, unless you were in a one year replacement or short-term gig (i.e., positions created because someone was on leave or seconded), were in full-time positions that automatically renewed. Basically, unless we got fired – which wasn’t easy unless you did something stupid or fire-worthy because of the strength of the teachers’ union – you were at that school until you wanted to leave. So we didn’t get an annual letter renewing our contract. Once you put in your first two years or probationary period, you were at that school until you wanted to leave (again, unless you did something stupid).

    I know there were generally two types of teachers at the school I left. One group that had been at the school for 15-20 years or more – and many of these teachers had taught generations of students from the small, rural communities we served. The other group, which I was a part of, were those with five to eight years or less and were not planning to stay at the school or in the community long-term – we were using this as a way to gain experience until we could get to larger, urban, more centralized locations.

    Grant, when I did leave I left for the academia – as I started my doctoral work in instructional technology right away and then took an academic position immediately following my Ph.D..

  3. I have to admit, I was one of those teachers that left. I just couldn’t take it anymore. As a chemistry teacher, I couldn’t see that I would be blamed for low reading scores. It affected our pay depending on how they did on the state test. The week before testing, I, as a chemistry teacher, actually taught reading. I don’t know the first thing about teaching reading!! I couldn’t take the constant forms to fill out, the “goals” sheets (that said I HAD to get reading scores up), and the bureaucracy. I ended up leaving on a maternity leave, never to return. When I went back to work, I decided to go into the private sector where we don’t have to teach to a test and the bureaucracy is usually kept to a minimum.

    The public school system is broken. Maybe they can take some lessons from private schools. I am told to love my students, teach to my personality, and NEVER to teach to the annual standardized test.

  4. Wow. I have so many thoughts on this. I was noting in a discussion for a different EDTECH class that the higher up you look in public school hierarchy, the less time the people there seem to have spent actually teaching students in a classroom. I think that explains why we spend so much time bogged down in bureaucracy.

    So…how do we avoid burnout? Your post made me really think. I determined that I try to focus on the kids, and try to avoid anything that’s NOT focused on the kids. How?

    * I say “no” to my principal and department head a lot.
    * When a student comes to me with a problem, I set aside what I’m doing, and I LOOK at them and LISTEN. Most of the time it will only take 5 minutes or less to help.
    * I delete most emails – without reading them – that were sent to more than 10 people. If it’s important, I’ll find out eventually.
    * I don’t do committees.
    * I try to go to one student event every week – a play, a swim meet, a soccer game, a debate tournament. I don’t have to stay for the whole thing – just long enough to see my students and for them to see me.

    Probably more, but that’s what I came up with off the top of my head.

    (21 years in the classroom)

  5. This is a tough issue. I’m going to hang myself out here just a bit. I’m not a public school teacher and I don’t understand fully what you mean by the bureaucracy of the system, but I do have strong feelings about the issue of teacher burnout and the concept of conveyor belt education (that which bureaucracy drives).

    You used the words “radical change” in your post. I am familiar with alternative options, like TJEd, that some may regard as very radical from the viewpoint of traditional public education. Because my wife and I home school our kids, we have been free to explore as many different approaches as we have desired. Seeing what has been achieved with some of these approaches has been invigorating and refreshing to us in our teaching roles, and being free to try these approaches has staved off burnout in our home schooling efforts on many occasions.

    I personally believe that teachers everywhere would lead the charge, if they could, in changing not just policy but fundamental approaches to learning. I see many doing or attempting to do this already.

    I recently left my position teaching in a traditional classroom (not public education) in favor of teaching by writing and publishing. I felt a lot of burnout in my former position. My former teaching environment was not rife with bureaucracy (even though there was still a strong administrative element in the organization), it was actually a really good organization to work for. Even though my new classroom will bring new challenges and have limitations of its own, it is part of a radical change that I felt I needed to pass through.

  6. It seems to me like you are saying that teaching to a test, and teaching creatively are mutually exclusive? I would argue that there is a way to do both. By teaching creatively and covering appropriate material the students would do great on the tests. Why do you feel that this is not the case? More and more is being required of teachers, and they could be better compensated.

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