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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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