With approximately 1.6 million teachers set to retire in the next decade, replenishing America’s teaching force should be a top priority. But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle. Retaining them is equally important.
Numerous studies show that teachers perform best after being in the classroom for at least five years. According to a McKinsey study, 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. In countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rates are much lower—around 3 percent.
Few if any corporate education reformer seem to want to address this problem, which is not particulaly suprising. Having high turnover is a mechanism for keeping costs low, by constantly replenishing large percentages of the workforce with younger, cheaper employees. However, for those interested in the critical importance of teacher retention and few interesting articles were published recently that indicated that school management plays a criticl role.
The study gauged novice teachers' intent to remain teaching and the factors that might influence that decision. Youngs said he was surprised to learn the frequency with which novices met with their school-assigned mentor teachers did not make them more or less likely to continue teaching.
In fact, the most important factor that influenced commitment was the beginning teacher's perception of how well the school principal worked with the teaching staff as a whole. This was a stronger predictor of intent to remain teaching than having adequate resources, the amount of administrative duties the teacher had or the size of their workload.
Another, unrelated article in Forbes, hinted at this too
Public Agenda, referenced above produced a report titled "Failure is not an Option". It laid out a number of factors that affected success in nine of Ohio's high-poverty, high-achieving schools
Third, teachers at the successful schools “regard student data as clarifying and helpful, and they use it to plan instruction.” In fact, “examining student data and talking about how to address the specific problems it reveals often produce further opportunities for staff to work together and learn from one another.”
In other words, while everyone is held accountable for results, test data is used to help foster a culture of continuous improvement; it is not used as a cudgel. Whenever any organization—whether a school or corporation—turns measurement into an excuse for punishment, Drucker noted in The Practice of Management, it will destroy morale, and employees will invariably find a way “not to obtain the best performance but to obtain the best showing” on the test or audit by gaming the system.
We need to start a discussion on policies that will lead to greater teacher retention - this is far more critical to maintaining a high quality education system than Rube Goldberg mechanisms to weed out a few underperformers.