I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Teacher Attrition


In our earlier conversation, Derrell Bradford said that the generally accepted idea that about half of teachers leave after their first five years is a "manufactured" fact.

And then I come across this at the really excellent Gotham Schools:

Another moment of exposure had to do with teacher attrition. After a discussion about the “last in, first out” policy, Louis asked Black if she was concerned that almost half of New York City school teachers leave after 6 years in the classroom (PDF link).
Here’s how Black responded:
Well you have to know, like, what’s really at the heart of the issue. I don’t know that we know what’s really at the heart of the issue. Teaching is a hard job. We want the ones who are committed. We want the ones who make a difference. We want the ones who want to work hard and really change the lives of these young people. They’re there on a mission. So, you know, some are going to leave.
She then returned to the “last in, first out” question, arguing that perhaps teachers would be less likely to leave if they weren’t concerned about being laid off. “Right now there have to be a lot of teachers thinking, ‘Maybe I don’t have a job next year.’ Can we afford to have thousands of teachers think to themselves, ’I have to leave the system now because I may not have a job in a few months?’ That’s going to be a catastrophe,” she said.
Gee, I guess you'd better avoid layoffs then, huh?

I will say that the report acknowledges that we don't know where these teachers go, and that it is possible many leave for the suburban schools. That's different than what I have sometimes said in the past - that they are leaving the profession.

I've not seen a meta-study on this, but most of what I've read says 30-50%. This is not "manufactured," Derrell - it's a real problem.

And it's at least as bad, if not worse, in charter schools. The next time Bradford or anyone else tells you how "shocking" it is that so few teachers are dismissed through tenure proceedings, ask them how many specialized, licensed professions like teaching have attrition rates this high for new entrants to the field.

Many bad teachers leave on their own, because it's a very hard job to do when you do it badly, and the low pay doesn't justify sticking it out. It is, to a large degree, a self-policing profession.

CLARIFICATION: Derrell Bradford tweets:
 Derrell Bradford 
@ on tchr attrit...I did not say the facts were manufactured. Said the conditions manufacture it. it's totally an issue.
You can see the transcript of our Twitter exchange below. That wasn't how I read Derrell's comment, but what he wrote is consistent with his tweet above. So, I apologize for misinterpreting his tweet.

As I said, Twitter is a bad forum for this kind of exchange - precisely for this kind of reason.

More on this in a later post.

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