When student test scores are release each year, the news media tends to jump all over them, especially if the numbers are bad. But here are some bad educational statistics that don’t get much exposure in the mainstream press.
Every year, U.S. schools hire more than 200,000 new teachers for that first day of class. By the time summer rolls around, at least 22,000 have quit. Even those who make it beyond the trying first year aren’t likely to stay long: about 30 percent of new teachers flee the profession after just three years, and more than 45 percent leave after five.
When teachers drop out, everyone pays. Each teacher who leaves costs a district $11,000 to replace, not including indirect costs related to schools’ lost investment in professional development, curriculum, and school-specific knowledge. At least 15 percent of K-12 teachers either switch schools or leave the profession every year, so the cost to school districts nationwide is staggering — an estimated $5.8 billion.
Students from the lowest-income families suffer the most. Inexperienced teachers (those with less than three years on the job) frequently land in classrooms with the neediest and often the most challenging students. Beginning teachers frequently start their careers at hard-to-staff schools where resources may be scarce — in other words, urban schools — simply because there are more jobs available there.
All of these depressing numbers, and some ideas for turning them around, are part of an excellent article on the high turnover rate in K12 education in Edutopia magazine, a publication of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. The writer, who dropped out of the profession after a frustrating first year, reviews the many reasons people give for leaving the classroom. However, none of them match this one.
New teachers, however naive and idealistic, often know before they enter the profession that the salaries are paltry, the class sizes large, and the supplies scant. What they don’t know is how little support from parents, school administrators, and colleagues they can expect once the door is closed and the textbooks are opened.
I’ve ranted on this topic many times before but it’s a point that deserves repeating. No school reform program is going to work unless the core of that program is solid and continuous support for teachers. It doesn’t matter how well written the curriculum or how much you test the kids, the foundation of a good school is a staff of good teachers. It’s as simple – and complicated – as that.
Read the whole article. It’s well worth your time.