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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Guest Blog: Attracting and Retaining Great Teachers in Education

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Did you ever know someone who wanted to be a teacher? Chances are they didn't go through with it or they quit within the first five years. The fundamental question must be asked, "How do we attract and retain great teachers in education?" Teacher Joe Bower (known as @joe_bower on Twitter) explores this issue a bit further. Here's his opinion and summary of this week's edchat.

--Betty Ray, Community Manager (@EdutopiaBetty) and Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Coordinator (@elanaleoni)

Tuesday, March 23rd's #edchat focused on discussing how we can attract and retain more great teachers - leaders in education. The discussion touched a number of different topics such as merit pay, teacher preparation programs, job satisfaction, quality administration, standardized testing and accountability. Here is but a taste of the many comments that were made.

@web20classroom: We need to examine what drives great teachers out of the profession -probably not just $

@jasonflom: Part of the challenge with merit pay is defining "Merit". Test scores alone are too simplistic and subject to too many variables.

@aldtucker: But merit pay can eventually de-motivate. If it leads to an if-then thing. If you do this... then you get that..

@olafelch: It's a chicken and egg situation: with prestige you get good applicants. Without good applicants, no prestige.

@VanessaSCassie: People are trying to measure teaching with a formula when it should be approached as an art

I am very interested in this topic because some see the problem here as not a teacher shortage problem, but as a teacher leakage problem. And it might be even worse than we first expected. Not only do half of teachers quit inside of their first 5 years on the job, but we will never know how many great people choose to never even enter the teacher profession in the first place.

It is inevitable for this discussion to focus on teacher pay. Salary is an issue, but some people like Dan Pink (author of Drive) might say we need to pay people very well with a base salary, and then do everything we can to get money out of their faces. Pink's message may only confirm what some have known for 123 years - merit pay is a really bad idea. Abandoning merit pay may might make sense, especially if the Harvard Business Review is correct when they say that money or recognition for good work does not rank very high on employees' motivation levels. Instead, employees list progress as their number one on-the-job motivator.

Finland's education system is built upon a number of paradoxes that have helped promote a lot of trust and respect for the teaching profession - only 10% of the 5000 applicants are accepted to attend faculties of education in Finnish Universities. A lot of people in Finland want to be teachers; it might be important for us to figure out why that is. Would you agree that most North Americans have a ho-hum view on the teaching profession? How many of you mothers and fathers dream of your child becoming a teacher? Something is wrong here.

Unfortunately, when we talk about teacher accountability, we innevitably end up talking about firing the bad ones. While it is true that some teachers should probably be let go, it may also be true that if we talked about how we can make good teachers even half as much as we talk about firing the bad ones, we might actually improve our education system.

You can check out the entire #edchat transcript here. If you want to participate in a future #edchat conversation, please join us on Twitter every Tuesday at 12 p.m. EST/6 p.m CET or at 7 p.m. EST/1 a.m CET.

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
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Comments (16)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dr. Mike Todd's picture
Dr. Mike Todd
Chief Learning Officer

Judith P has some good points, however should we look at the mentoring that teachers receive in their first few years. New teachers need more support than they get from the 20 year veteran who is looking at retirement. There is a fab teacher getting ready to leave a school I am working with and she says "she is drained". She indicated that she does not see a collegial environment where people work together for a common goal. When any person (educator or not) feels this way it is not a good thing. It is worse for the school business because it hurts kids to lose a great teacher.

TeachTech_K8's picture
TeachTech_K8
Elementary Technology Teacher (K - 8)

I would have to agree that districts would like to increase teachers pay but teacher unions sometimes make it difficult because of all the "nit picky" issues. Teacher unions should be reorganized into professional association. The teaching profession needs to gain back respect.

Jenifer Smith's picture

Many educators that experience support, awards and acknowledgment are the folks who work 14 - 16 hour days. It isn't enough to be solid in your subject, caring towards students, collaborative with colleagues. To even attempt to do all that is asked of us, we sacrifice sleep, family, personal lives, and self-care. We're suppose to bring our best game every day we teach. How can you keep doing that year after year and not experience some loss or damage? Several "wanna- be" teachers who have worked in my building have left teaching because they "get it" and they don't want to bear the burden of unrealistic expectations coupled with little to no support. It isn't so much about the money. It's about wanting to stay sane and healthy.

Autumn Zellner's picture

I agree that pay is a small factor. Teachers know from the beginning this profession is not one that will bring eventual wealth. Teaching does offer the opportunity to be creative and contribute, or so I thought. It seems every other day there is some grand new program that immediately becomes a requirement for all teachers to follow regardless of teaching style or personal expertise. I would like to be seen as a capable contributor to the educational process instead of the implementer of someone else's idea. Being valued and encouraged would go a long way to fuel greater retention.

msteach's picture

I agree that pay is definitely not a factor. We must teach because we love it and we want to make a difference. I believe that teacher preparation programs are a big factor in the retention of teachers. Recently I read an article about new teachers feeling isolated and ready to throw in the towel after only a year. I think that if we have more programs geared towards making new teachers feel welcomed and vital to the success of the school, then this would deter some of these feelings.

Stuart Carlin's picture
Stuart Carlin
9-12 journalism and English teacher from Pembroke Pines, Florida

I have spent 25 years helping Florida's children to learn. I feel very confident in my pedagogy. Now the legislature tells me my salary is going to depend on student test scores, my advanced degrees mean nothing, and there will no longer be credit for NBCT. Talk about a lack of respect. I don't think this will result in leakage, I think it will result in a flood of early career teachers leaving. This Republican led assault on the profession is abhorrent to anyone with a brain. They complain about funds for education, and yet they have a bill to increase vouchers. Tax money to pay for religious and private schools? What are these people thinking.

Stuart Carlin's picture
Stuart Carlin
9-12 journalism and English teacher from Pembroke Pines, Florida

Senator Thrasher of Jacksonville sponsored a bill to strip teachers of tenure, tie compensation to student test scores, eliminate credit for advanced degrees and NBCT, and make it easier for a teacher to be terminated. It passed by a party line vote. Now it looks like the house will pass its equally disgusting version and will be signed by our governor, who by the way, is planning to run for the U.S. Senate. Once again, teachers and education are the toys of the state legislature. If running teachers out of the profession is what they had intended, they should congratulate themselves. I have 25 years in this system, and leaving now makes no sense, but if I were in my 5th year or earlier, I would definitely seek employment elsewhere. There is no way you can convince me that these legislators care anything about the children of Florida. It is shameful.

Tammy Crosby's picture

Stuart:

Thank you for posting your comments. I appreciate the frankness of your expression.

I have taught in Florida for 8 years and am currently teaching IB Chemistry. I have spoken with colleagues regarding the new legislation and am often hearing that "it will all work out" or "I can't believe this is even being discussed." I have a great position teaching gifted and talented students who usually score well which may help reduce the impact of the changes on my personal income. Leaving a position I worked hard to acquire is not on the tope of my agenda, but I am not fond of being treated as if I do not have other options. The situation has catapulted me into returning to school.

I have wondered why the changes are being made, if not in the best interest of the profession or those for which it services. As you mentioned, the changes will not retain highly qualified teachers or attract quality teachers therefore it stands to reason that the quality of education our students receive is not the focus. You also mentioned the increase of voucher and charter school spending, considering the legislation is centered around the monetary value of education, could it be that the same people who are passing this legislation also profit from non-public education facilities, charter schools, etc. who receive public funding? After all, education based businesses can be very profitable.

Fred's picture

I am a second year teacher who used to work in the computer field. I became a teacher because I thought I could change the world. I did not become a teacher for the money. I make 2/3's of what I used to make as a tech support manager. I enjoy helping others and thought teaching would be the way to go. I do not agree with merit pay, especially if you have students with low IQ's. Not many people can become master teachers overnight. It takes many classes and workshops to become a master teacher.

Fred's picture

Great Blog!

I work as a 4th grade Special Ed teacher in the inner city. I used to be in computer field working as a tech support manager. I became a teacher because I like to help others. I took a pay cut to become to become a teacher. I knew going into the field that I would not become a millionaire. I also do not agree with merit pay for special education students that have low iq's. It is similar to asking them to jump 12 feet. Just my opinion.

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