Schools Fight for Teachers Because of High Turnover

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.

Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years.

Here in Guilford County, N.C., turnover had become so severe in some high-poverty schools that principals were hiring new teachers for nearly every class, every term. To staff its neediest schools before classes start on Aug. 28, recruiters have been advertising nationwide, organizing teacher fairs and offering one of the nation’s largest recruitment bonuses, $10,000 to instructors who sign up to teach Algebra I.

“We had schools where we didn’t have a single certified math teacher,” said Terry Grier, the schools superintendent. “We needed an incentive, because we couldn’t convince teachers to go to these schools without one.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducation

Posted August 27, 2007 at 7:03 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. John B. Chilton wrote:

Indeed. As with the perpetual story of the “shortage” of qualified nurses, there isn’t a shortage. Rather, there’s a shortage at the current wage. You don’t get what you don’t pay for. Schools have declared what they will pay for the number of teachers they need. The number of teachers willing to teach at that wage is less.

Bonuses simply make future staffing some future principal’s problem. Attention needs to be paid to salaries that retain valuable teachers. Unionized scale or salaries that do not reflect merit or area of expertise are a recipe for disaster.

It all goes back to are you willing to pay to get the number of teachers needed? And where do you get the funds to do it?

August 27, 7:47 am | [comment link]
2. AnglicanFirst wrote:

Things are going well for the teachers in my township.  Class size is about ten to sixteen pupils per teacher and the teachers are assisted by teacher’s aides. 

Salaries are well above the median for this rural community and the benefits, retirement and medical, provided to the school’s total staff are beyond the means of many of the town’s taxpayers.

And this isn’t cheap.  To maintain the town’s schools as they are now managed, it is necessary to keep updating property assessments and to increase taxes.  Of course this is causing it to be more and more difficult for young people to buy property in the township in which their families have lived for generations.  The increasing taxes are also quite a shock to retired people and others of modest income.

August 27, 9:04 am | [comment link]
3. Sarah1 wrote:

A close family member of mine teaches at such a school.

Every day is like going to a war zone.  Since the school administrators don’t get rid of the juvenile delinquents, assaulters, rapists, drug dealers, and other simply terribly behaved adolescents there—every child, of course, deserves a taxpayer-paid “education”—the children who are there to learn don’t, and the teachers burn out like flies under a magnifying glass on a summer day.

Good luck with the bonus idea!

August 27, 9:49 am | [comment link]
4. AnglicanFirst wrote:

My previous comment was about a K-6 school in a rural township.

This comment comes from a family friend who has been a substitute teacher in the Fairfax County schools of Northern Virginia.

Prospective substitute teachers were given classroom scenarios to which they had to provide appropriate answers in order to be acceptable for employment.

One such scenario was
“If you are teaching a class and there are three or four students in the back of the classroom who are rudely disrupting the class, what is your appropriate action as a teacher?”

The accepted answer is
“I would go to the back of the room and ask the students if there is anything that I (as a teacher) can do to help them.”

August 27, 10:12 am | [comment link]
5. Doug Martin wrote:

There is a need to reconsider some of the “rules” regarding highly qualified teachers.  In California at least, to teach high school math you have to have a college major in Mathematics.  There is little or no relationship between high school math and what college math majors (at least those from reputable institutions) learn and practice.  It is almost inconceivable that any Mathematics major would go to school for another year to get a credential and earn 1/3 of what he or she would make “in the real world”.  I really don’t think the folks who are making the rules understand what constitutes a Mathematics major or what kind of intellect is required to get one.  I am sure there are similar situations in other fields.

August 27, 11:45 am | [comment link]
6. RalphM wrote:

I have had the privilege of being married to two excellent teachers (one now deceased).  They taught in two different school systems which were in different socio-economic environments. 

The complaints were basically the same:  Lawmakers and administrators who had never taught in a classroom making policy that could not work and was in conflict with other policies that were still in effect.  Requirements piled on top of requirements with no extra time for the additional workload.  Overeducated parents with not enough real problems to keep them occupied, so they wanted do dictate how their child should be taught.  Administrators who caved to unrealistic demands by parents

August 27, 11:08 pm | [comment link]
7. RalphM wrote:

Sorry, posted before I was finished….
If you want to see something really rare, find a teacher who teaches beyond the date they become eligible to retire.  Why put up with being treated like an indentured servant.  Oh, and don’t forget the idiots who make up the TEST SCORE that must be achieved.  No matter that your school has a 60% turnover in the student population every year.  If you don’t make the number, your career will be adversely affected…

Rant over

August 27, 11:14 pm | [comment link]
8. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

Well, it basically boils down to You Get What You Pay For. I am an education minor and thought at one point in my life that I might go into teaching, and then it dawned on me…low pay and even lower cultural respect in a school system that is often run by politicians wanting to cut taxes and not fund anything (except sports teams).


August 28, 1:37 am | [comment link]
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