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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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MaryFran Holly's picture

I believe we need to reorganize teacher's unions into professional associations or one professional association. People are at a point where they want to pay teachers but they don't want to hear the little nit picky things that are part of negotiations. It's time to become a professional association and demand the professional respect of communities.

Jason Spencer's picture

Pay is an issue depending on region. I have a M.S. in Education Media Design & Technology and a B.S. in Information Technology & Communication Design -- resulting in a student loan payment of about $800/mo.

Unfortunately, I do not have a teaching credential, so that's another two years and another student loan, just to set foot in a classroom.

I thought about a teaching fellowship type program, where I come in "full-time" teaching, while getting a credential. In San Jose, California, the tenth largest city in America, the first-year, pre-credentialed teacher's salary is $36,735. My mortgage/housing alone costs me $2600/mo -- how could I risk such an adventure? (Don't forget that school loan!)... See More

That said, I'd happily set foot in a classroom, but there needs to be a fast-track to credentials for professionals that have advanced degrees. Put innovative teachers in the classroom NOW, not two years from now -- especially those that want to be a part of the action (even for the little pay).

K. Love's picture

In our monthly union newsletter, the president used the phrase, "endure observations," or something to that effect. It was the word "endure" that stuck out for me--I don't think of working with my administrator as "endurance," as if I'm one of my students who has to suffer through a lesson. Perhaps when both sides can truly be collaborative and professional, more good teachers will stay, more adminstration will support, and each will find mutual respect to focus on students. I enjoy observations, discussion, and insight in how to improve, just as I enjoy when I can help mentor others. This attitude and atmosphere of punishment and pain should be swept away; perhaps teachers evaluating administration would be equitable? Just a thought. But equality in professionalism may be a good place to start.

Demetria Bacchus's picture

Wow. I don't know where I stand in the conversation. I have been a home-school parent for the past 11 years and my children have had a very successful FIRST year in the public school system! My passion is education at the middle grades level yet, I can't step foot in a classroom until I have a teacher's certificate, which is a good thing. The question is what programs are out there to assist us who are teachers at heart in getting into the classroom sooner under strict supervision by a certified teacher and make a living at the same time? My plan is to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching degree (I have a bachelor's in Marketing). Two years before I can set foot in a classroom that route, while some many middle schoolers don't read at grade level.

Judith Pardo's picture

We often view teaching, backwards; the word educate comes from the Latin- educar- to pull out or to bring forth- meaning....the info is within the human mind. If each teacher would be an Educator, not only folks who hold text books, the committees approved for the topic...if they would step out of the mold of hiding behind books, desks and doors the process would begin to develop. If educators do not use the tools set in place for them to really enlighten a mind, there will be an even higher number of home school teachers...because parents do care about their children. This is not to demean teacher or to imply they all are not extrodinary. Most teachers were wonderful students, and teachers know that the child who shows up really ready to learn are few- it is the same when they grow up...they are too few- the really masterful teachers, and be honest- many [not all] teachers are fearful- they do not like controversy they like control and method- not change.

Jason Spencer's picture

[quote]My plan is to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching degree (I have a bachelor's in Marketing). Two years before I can set foot in a classroom that route, while some many middle schoolers don't read at grade level.[/quote]

That's pretty much the way I feel, except I pursued a Master of Science - which generally doesn't include a credential path. If you are looking for a great program that will set you up for the future of education, I recommend the MAT@USC one. It's mostly online, but the folks over are Rossier School know their stuff. I'd take it to earn my credential, but there's no way I can afford to pay off two Master's when it's all over.
http://mat.usc.edu/

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