Teacher turnover rate wrecks continuity

It’s not surprising that 41 percent of teachers in the New York City system, the largest in the nation, quit the classroom during the first five years on the job (“City teachers fleeing New York at an alarming rate: report,” The New York Post, Jun. 25).  I say that because new teachers are totally unprepared for the realities of what they face on a daily basis.

Licensing places far too little emphasis on the challenges that new teachers deal with.  They’re given no mentors and are expected to sink or swim.  It’s a prescription for disaster.  Turnover is predictably higher in schools with large numbers of students from low-income families who bring huge deficits to the classroom.  Before teachers can begin to teach subject matter, they must perform triage.  Eventually, this wears them out and they quit.

Residency program during the year that college graduates are working on their license can help prepare them.  They’re akin to apprenticeships, where students combine classroom instruction and hands-on experience.  There will always be some turnover, but the appalling rate reported makes changes mandatory.

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4 Replies to “Teacher turnover rate wrecks continuity”

  1. Society does not actually think of teaching as a “profession”, but more like a job — that is, something that anyone with some basic intelligence and motivation could do successfully with perhaps a week or two of on-the-job training. Like working as a cashier in a supermarket.

    Lawyers, doctors, accountants, architects, engineers, biologists — very few of them get their professional degree and start the next week working as unsupervised professionals. But, that’s what society routinely does with teachers.

    The lack of closely-supervised professional work during a new teacher’s first few years is one aspect of the no-first-line-supervisors-in-teaching problem. All the other professions have hands-on first-line supervisors for new professionals and, in large organizations, for even the more experienced professionals. Teachers have no such supervisors.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: Tradition dies hard in education, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s sink-or-swim for new teachers, with the high turnover rate showing the insanity of that approach.

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  3. I’m not sure I’m right about this, but it seems not much ink is given to the quality of administrators in relation to teacher turnover. I suggest that it might be very important. Just how good are the Principals, Vice Principals and Superintendents who manage school faculties? From my years teaching, I would say having a supportive Principal as a beginning teacher was a great benefit.

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  4. dkhatt: There’s no question that principals play a huge role in teacher turnover. Teachers who don’t feel supported by their principals either quit teaching entirely or transfer to a different school. Lack of support has several causes. Some principals are outright bullies; others are cowards; others are incompetent. I taught under all three, as well as under exemplary principals.

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