Researchers find grim employment status for teachers

Researchers find grim employment status for teachers

(District of Columbia) Much of the disproportionally high rate of teacher turnover in hard-to-staff schools serving high-poverty students can be attributed to a lack of quality induction programs for beginning teachers, according to guidance released earlier this month.

Roughly half a million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year – attrition that costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually – with 40 to 50 percent of new teachers leaving the profession after five years, according to research cited in On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers.

The findings come as researchers working separately reported that career teachers around the country are struggling with low wages, sometimes even qualifying for state and federal assistance programs. That report,  Mid- and Late Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes, from the Center for American Progress,  points out that a major difference between the U.S. education system and those in other nations with higher-performing students is lower pay for educators here.

Combined, the two studies offer new insight into problems within the education system that have either been overlooked or ignored.

“Students are not the only ones whose ability to learn suffers in low-performing schools,” says Mariana Haynes, author of On the Path to Equity, issued by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy organization focused on underserved students. “Too often, teachers in schools serving students from high-need environments lack access to excellent peers and mentors and have fewer opportunities for collaboration and feedback.”

Collaboration and mentoring are but a couple of tools used for induction –the support and guidance provided to new teachers in the early stages of their careers.

Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress report provided some stunning examples of poor teacher pay in some places.

In Oklahoma, teachers with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree make less than sheet metal workers. In Colorado, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years of experience make less than a trucker in the state. And teachers in Georgia with 10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less than a flight attendant in the state.

Over 20 percent of teachers rely on the financial support of a second job in 11 states, and in some states such Maine, that number is as high as 25 percent, according to Mid- and Late Career Teachers authors Ulrich Boser and Chelsea Straus.

Though low salaries are among the things teachers who quickly leave the profession cite as an issue – as well as inadequate administrative support, isolated working conditions and poor student discipline – On the Path to Equity recommends a comprehensive induction program to help support new teachers and possibly curb turnover rates.

“Teachers receiving a more comprehensive package of these induction components achieve higher levels of job satisfaction, commitment and retention, classroom teaching practices and pedagogical methods, and student achievement,” Haynes says.

Some of the strongest induction components include having a mentor from the same field, regular communication with one’s principal and scheduled collaboration with other teachers, according to On the Path to Equity, which noted that implementing these components reduced the turnover rate of those receiving induction in comparison to those receiving none by 50 percent.

As of 2012, over half of the states have induction support programs for beginning teachers, some of which even fund these programs. However, according to Haynes, few provide beginning teachers with the four most common components: mentoring, reduced preparation and course load, seminars and workshops, and supportive communication with a principal or department chair.

On the Path to Equity suggests requiring a two year minimum comprehensive induction program that provides embedded coaching and feedback by well-trained mentors for new teachers following entry-level licensure. In addition, successful completion of the program should be a requirement for professional licensure.

Other suggestions for states and districts to improve teacher effectiveness include:

  • Requiring regular evaluations of teachers using multiple measures based on clear standards for effective practice, measures of student achievement growth, and other measures such as observations and lesson plans or other artifacts of practice. Evaluations should be primarily focused on providing feedback that is useful in improving the teacher’s pedagogical capacity and the learning of his or her students.
  • Developing coherent systems that encourage high-quality educator development and teaching by using performance measures based on validated standards of teaching practice for initial and advanced licensure and program improvement.
  • Promoting the involvement of educators, school and district leaders, and communities in using data from validated surveys to identify and improve key elements of a positive school environment.
  • Supporting staff selection and professional growth systems that foster collegial collaboration in pursuit of high-impact, evidence-based practices consistent with state and district learning goals.

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