High Teacher Turnover, What You Need To Knowby : Tiffany Tunnell
posted on : 9/15/2013
Why is teacher turnover rising?
Take a look around your child’s school. Do a majority of the teachers on staff seem new, inexperienced, or perhaps fresh out of college? Would you say there are more new faces on staff this school year, compared with past years? High teacher turnover is a subtle yet serious issue in many Phoenix area schools.
Every year, hundreds of recent Midwest college graduates are recruited to teach in beautiful, sunny Arizona (along with other Southwest states). This recruiting occurs all over the Midwest, including states like Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, all of which have low teacher turnover and fewer job opportunities within their states.
The obvious question in your mind should be “Why are there so many open teaching jobs in Arizona that recruiters need to travel halfway across the nation to fill these positions?” Why is there such high demand for teachers in Phoenix, Arizona versus the Midwest?
The reason, high teacher turnover. Numerous studies show that teachers perform their best after achieving a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience. The majority of teachers never make it that far with 14% of teachers leaving just after their first year and 46% leaving before they reach five years in the classroom. The commonly cited reason- Burnout.
Webster’s Dictionary defines Burnout as, “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” It’s true – Many teachers burn out simply because of the highly demanding, fast paced environment. Others cite lack of support from parents, students, and administration. For others, it’s too many children in the classroom. Additionally, teachers are not only required to teach their classrooms, they are also expected to attend regular meetings, grade papers, communicate regularly with parents, meet higher learning expectations, attend certain extra-curricular activities and events, and even tutor students in their spare time. Often, a traditional 40 hour work week can easily become 60+ hours, most of which are unpaid extra hours. That is quite a workload for anyone, especially someone fresh out of college, new to the profession, and living hundreds of away from their family, friends, and maybe even their significant others.
Another culprit that is just as influential on teacher turnover is a general disagreement with the ever-evolving curriculums, paired with the high expectations that students do well on standardized, mandated tests. As a former school teacher, I experienced firsthand this increase in pressure – let me tell you, it is very real. Many times I felt forced to teach students using methods that I did not even agree with. The general attitude of school district personnel towards “this new era of teaching” is to teach so that test scores look good, using whatever methods necessary. This type of teaching has been nicknamed “Drill and Kill” for a reason. It’s as if the fundamental teaching methodology has changed from “Are children becoming a lifelong learners?” to “Are children meeting state expectations?”
This new attitude that focuses less on individual student needs and more on testing results led me to join MathRise Learning Centers, where I currently work full-time as a one-on-one tutor and location manager. Many of the students I teach at MathRise arrive with sorely lacking basic fundamental skills. The primary culprit – Standardized testing! The same thing that is hurting student success is also driving many great teachers away. “Drill and kill” and “Teaching to the test” not only discourages many potentially great teachers from continuing to teach, it also discourages parents and students who consistently receive poor academic results.
So, the next time you volunteer in the classroom, pick up your child from school or attend a school event, take a good look around. Although there may be high turnover in many schools, there are many high quality teachers out there who battle through burnout and state mandated testing for the pure joy of teaching our children. Statistically a little over half of all local teachers have still been teaching for under five years. If you feel your child may be lacking basic foundational skills, I recommend seeking outside help.
Professionals, like myself, at MathRise Learning Centers have experience dealing with achievement gaps, special needs and gifted students. We work by building foundational skills using a curriculum that has proven results to rocket students to the top of their class. We start by assessing your child’s learning grade level and will compare the results to their actual grade level. These assessments help diagnose strengths and weaknesses in children’s foundational skills and and allow us to create an individualized, pattern based curriculum that can turn any child into a confident, successful student regardless of the high number of teachers exiting education each year.