Improving Education by Supporting Teachers

One problem facing American education is the rapid attrition rate of teachers, according to Boyer and Hamil of Mississippi State University. Although teaching can be a rewarding profession, it is often demanding and overwhelming with much pressure and responsibility. Too many times, teachers cannot overcome the burden to stay with the profession for long. Jalongo and Heider (2006) cite the shocking statistics: 46% of new teachers quit within five years of teaching, with that statistic growing to 50% in urban areas; 90% of the teachers hired in this country are replacements for teachers who left the profession for some reason other than retirement. Kopkowski (2008) says their commission estimates that teacher attrition has grown by 50% in the last fifteen years, and this exodus has cost districts and states about seven billion dollars in seeking, hiring, and attempting to retain teachers. These staggering expenditures take away dollars from education budgets already pressed to keep up. Jalongo and Heider (2006) further comment that “With so many qualified teachers leaving the profession, many students are experiencing substandard education in a considerable number of districts,” thereby jeopardizing educators' number one goal of providing students with a high quality education.

Click Here To Get A Free Report On 16 Proven Ways To Motivate Your Child To Do Better In School...

Plus, receive a "Live Demonstration Inside Our Unique 1 On 1 Online Classroom."
According to Richard Ingersoll, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied education trends over the last twenty years, the American teaching force is enlarging, becoming more female, younger, and less stable, staying on the job less even as the number of teachers soars. Our teachers, approaching four million, are the largest work force in America and growing two and a half times as fast as the number of students. He suspects two reasons: smaller class sizes and the mushrooming number of special education students. Women teachers have grown from 66% of the workforce in 1988 to 76% in 2008, and the attrition rate for first year teachers has gone from 9.8% to 13.1% during the same years.

Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Education, has the role of leading the commission in preparing teacher evaluations in Michigan, a move designed to make teachers better, not fire the bad ones. She spoke in Philadelphia this past May, 2012, at the Education Writers Association gathering for teachers, administrators, and policy makers. She highlighted the need for continuing education for teachers, speaking of teaching as a craft. One elementary teacher who spoke about trying to be a “super” teacher said that teachers starting out need humor, honesty, and peer advice to help get them through October, what she called “the disillusioning period.” In Denver, a residency program pairs beginning teachers with veteran mentors, working together four days a week. Some charter schools have had success with teachers agreeing to intensive, ongoing training, including videoing of some classes for later review, frequent mentoring, performance pay, and the risk of not having their contracts renewed if students don’t show improvement. There’s a strong pressure to perform but not without significant support. Students, too, are clear as to expectations of what they are to learn with mastery levels posted in the buildings and a huge emphasis on college.

Over the next two years, forty-five states will be moving toward common core curriculum standards for their K through 12 schools, and, while there is a debate over whether this is a useful idea, there’s also the question about whether it will work. Will students improve? Members at the annual convention of the Education Writers Association agreed that implementation is key and depends upon concentrated professional development and intensive coaching of teachers. Delaware Governor Jack Markell said that higher standards should be fewer and clearer and linked to college and career readiness. He thinks that states need to improve their assessment systems to provide more frequent data to allow districts and teachers to change their instruction methods. He agrees that teacher training and support are crucial and added, “Unless you pair the right standards with the right professional development with the right materials and provide the right feedback, it won’t work.” That’s a tall order indeed.

Related Articles