Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Teacher For A Day

Megan McArdle loves her some teachers, as long as they are the elite.

Teach for America Attracts an Elite
Jul 13 2010, 12:22 PM ET Comment

I'd argue that in an ideal world, teaching needy kids would be a higher status, more sought-after job than corporate law. And apparently, we really do live in the best of all possible worlds.

That's lovely, but how long do they teach?

In the past much of the organization's efforts have been tightly focused on recruitment, but are now shifting to boost the retention rate. Teach For America also reports that 34% of alumni teach at their placement schools for a third year. Many others go on to teach elsewhere, especially at KIPP charter schools and other schools founded by Teach For America alumni. Still others train for administrative positions, and Teach For America now reports that 63% of its alumni are working or studying in education.[9]

Sixty-six percent abandon the school that hired them to bring their specialness to the poor and struggling masses. They find easier jobs elsewhere or move up the ladder into administration. Some seem to have the attitude of corporate CEOs, who treat each job as an opportunity for personal advancement instead of dedicating their career to running an organization well.

Teacher Turnover and Attrition Rates are High [pdf]

The facts about the teacher retention problem speak for themselves. Turnover forteachers is significantly higher than for other occupations (see Figure 1).1Based on analysis of the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics for the1999-2000 school year, it is estimated that almost a third of America’s teachers leave the field sometime during their first three years of teaching, and almost half leave after five years (see Figure 2).2In many low-income communities and rural areas, the rates of attrition are even higher (see Figure 3). The attrition rate for those who enter through some “alternative” pathways can be as high as 60 percent.3

As a result of high attrition rates, despite their best efforts to recruit new teachers,many of our schools wind up with a net loss each year. In 1999, for example, our schools hired 232,000 teachers who had not been teaching the year before (i.e., new teachers hired who were not simply moving from one school to another). But the schools lost more than 287,000 teachers who left for other occupations that year—55,000 more than they hired (see Table 1a). When we see reports about how many teachers need to be hired this fall, we should be asking instead: “How many teachers left last spring? And why?”

As we explore the numbers and the accompanying figures, it is important to recognize that the teacher retention problem crosses all communities and all sectors of education (see Figure 3). Teacher attrition is highest in low-income communities, and in private schools, but suburban schools and affluent neighborhoods are not immune.

The retention problem plays itself out, to a greater or lesser extent, in every state.In Texas, which is one of the more dramatic cases, the problem was the focus of a recent report, which revealed that of the over 63,000 teaching positions in the state that needed to be filled in the 1998-99 school year, most of the openings (about 46,600, or 74percent) were due to teachers leaving the profession prior to retirement. In comparison,11,000 (17 percent) of these vacancies resulted from teacher retirements, in approximately 5,700 (9 percent) of these positions were created to accommodate increasing student enrollment. Crucially, many of the teachers who left the profession had not been teaching for very long. Between 1993 and 1996 as many as nineteen percent of the state’s new teachers left the profession after their first year.

I saw a lot of those one-year teachers. Many were unwilling or unable to take the constant insults meted out in schools, from condescending administrators, defensive parents and disturbed children. Their insulting paycheck is the last straw. Schools need dedicated principals who will involve his or her students' parents in the school as much as humanly possible. They need well-paid teachers who will stay in the jobs and improve their skills. It takes years to become a good teacher and disciplinarian. And they need a community that doesn't call them stupid, overpaid, lazy teat-suckers so the schools can be sold off to private corporations.
(Edited after posting, even more than usual)

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