Sep 22, 2008

The Three R's to the DC Teacher Shortage Problem : Retain, Respect and Resources

From: The Mail - September 21, 2008

The research supports that teacher attrition rates are higher in teaching than other professions. The National Center on Education estimates that one third of all teachers in the US leave education during their first three years of teaching and almost half leave after five years. In poorer communities, it is even worse. For those who choose teaching through alternative certification programs, it isn’t uncommon for as many as 60 percent to exit education. Little wonder that DC Public Schools is facing a teacher shortage citywide. Of course other factors contribute to teacher shortages. For instance when Chancellor Rhee offered the Teacher Transition Award program last school year it encouraged certified teachers from closing and restructuring schools to leave in exchange for monetary awards. Not to mention the 78 probationary DC teachers who were fired in June without regard to their work performance while another 269 teachers were terminated, even though some of them were certified and some had agreed upon action plans. Then there are teachers like Denise Hamilton, the blind teacher (certified) featured on channel 9 news that was fired by DCPS due to a glitch created by the DC Central office. Go figure. Let’s not forget about the teachers who just got up and left for greener pastures.

The media recently reported that there is a teacher shortage at Thurgood Marshall, Ferebee Hope, and Garfield schools in the district. Many other schools complain of teacher shortages, including Ballou, Davis, Hamilton-Moten Academy, and the Shadd Center amongst a host of unreported others. A listserve parent weighs in on the impact of the DC teacher shortage at Thurgood Marshall: “Both Rhee and Fenty would never subject their kids to be placed in a class of forty students. You would think school principals should be the first voices we hear when school conditions are unacceptable. But instead they hide out in their offices, hoping parents will not complain. They are so afraid of drawing attention to their school to even ask for help or assistance from DCPS, for fear of loosing their positions, that they are placing our children in overcrowded classrooms.”

I wish I had a crystal ball, because if I did I would love to predict how our mayor and Chancellor will deliver the hard and quick solutions to our teacher shortage problem. After all, they are revolutionizing education, aren’t they ? Could teacher retention be one of the solutions? Randi Weingarten, now President of American Federation of Teachers, offers her perspective: “If we can’t keep the teachers who are hired, building a cadre of experienced, well-prepared teachers becomes like trying to fill a bucket that has a hole in its bottom. It’s costly and counterproductive to hire thousands of well-qualified people every year, invest millions of dollars in incentives, orientation, and professional development — only to see one of every four leave within a year and more than one of every three by the end of the third year. Worse, it’s bad for kids. Experienced teachers are more confident and more competent than brand-new teachers.” The key to retaining certified teachers depends on the three R’s which, by the way, have been discussed in many UFT publications: “You need to respect your professional staff, you need to retain (not fire) qualified teachers, and you need to provide adequate and appropriate resources.” Written by Candi Peterson.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

So when people complain that TFA and DCTF just quit anyway after they put in their two year commitment, a lot of new teachers who had graduated from ed colleges leave out of the profession, too.

Anonymous said...

anon, you hit the nail right on the head for one of the biggest criticisms of alternative certification programs. whether a new teacher is TFA, DCTF or a traditional teacher, they are likely to quit. at least TFA and DCTF have a commitment to stay for two years. Many new teacher out of teacher ed programs quit during the first year. Like the two at my school who have already quit. At least the TFA and DCTF folks don't leave their students as often int he middle of the year.

Candi said...

The point is if our system would begin to focus on retention of teachers, try respecting teachers and providing appropriate resources at the classroom level then perhaps we could attract and retain good teachers. I have seen many great teachers leave due to being frustrated with our school system. I must say that a part of the decision to leave is due to the underfunding of public education and blatant disrespect of teachers as professionals.

Anonymous said...

Many beginning teachers leave dyfunctional schools within the first 3 months; however, those teachers that are traditional ed prepared go to a different system and not leave education altogether such as TFA and DCTF.

But as Candi stated with respect and resources we will retain teachers as a much higher level than what we are experiencing.

Anonymous said...

I would add another big, important R word: raise. A raise in our salaries, especially for teachers starting out and not making the bigger bucks veteran teachers with a masters or two or a PhD are making, would certainly help retain teachers.

Anonymous said...

Here, here anon about the raise. It is so hard for young folks teaching in urban areas to make ends meet. The cost of living is so high in our city. veteran teachers did NOT face the same struggles, because even though salaries were much lower 20-30 years ago, the cost of living was more reasonable. Now, young folks are barely scraping by and facing an immensely difficult struggle in the classroom. That reality certainly makes the job tougher.

Anonymous said...

I could now add another r, as it doesn't look like there's going to be a tentative aggreement, let alone a ratified contract and a raise: resumé. A lot of teachers will be preparing theirs and getting out of DCPS, going to where at least conditions are better. Wish I could join them, but i have too many years here to be compensated in a neighboring county on the same scale.

Anonymous said...

GS 115C-325 ! Support and instructional feedback is critical ! Many operational issues and nationally teacher retention is reporting we are losing up to 50% of our teacher's within five years ! Thanks for the update !That's why this radical twilight zone Rhee reform is concerning !Among other areas mentioned and let's be sure to re-write our constitutional laws and educational law books as we sail through PL107-110 NCLB and the re-authorization on a law not funded !Blame it on the teacher's is your scape goat ? Read Manufactured Crisis ! Call Guskey and Marzano !