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The Perils of Teacher Turnover

New Berlin could lose up to a third of their teachers. Teacher turnover has serious consequences.

Back in March, noted education historian Diane Ravitch penned a blog for Education Week called “Why Are Teachers So Upset?” Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, is the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” and was assistant secretary of education in the George H.W. Bush administration. She knows of what she speaks.

Her blog cited a MetLife study stating that teacher job satisfaction was the lowest it has been in 20 years. In three years, it went from 59 percent to 44 percent while the percentage of teachers likely to leave the profession climbed from 17 percent to 29 percent.

Ravitch contends that job satisfaction is directly tied to feeling that the profession is respected by the community. This calls to mind a story in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the School District of New Berlin. The district is in danger of losing up to a third of its teachers. A total of 50 out of 314, more than 15 percent, have resigned or retired already this year.

Salaries and benefits are not the main reasons behind the departures. The paper spoke with more than a dozen employees and wrote that the concerns of most have little to do with paying more for retirement or benefits.

“The resentment appears to stem from feelings that their input doesn't matter, that the administration doesn't communicate well with them, that they aren't supported or appreciated by people in the district, and that changes meant to be good for kids are poorly executed and fail to improve teaching.”

The fact is, the teachers quitting the profession are often the very best we have. That is something that should concern everyone. We all want our children to have the very best education possible. High teacher turnover comes with serious consequences.

For starters, studies show that teachers are at their best after seven years in a classroom. With nearly half quitting before their fifth year, there is a serious lack of experienced educators.

Fiscal conservatives take note: all the turnover is extremely expensive. The Alliance for Excellent Education says that schools and districts nationwide spend about $2.2 billion per year recruiting and training replacements.

A major recent study provides more reasons for concern. Entitled “How Teacher Turnover Hurts Student Achievement,” it was conducted by researchers Susanna Loeb of Stanford University, Matthew Ronfeldt of the University of Michigan, and Jim Wyckoff of the University of Virginia.

Mark Simon, an education policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, summarized the findings in the Washington Post. “Turnover affects morale and the professional culture at a school. It weakens the knowledge base of the staff about students and the community. It weakens collegiality, professional support and trust that teachers depend on in their efforts to improve achievement.”

As the debate over education reform continues in Wisconsin, do not lose sight of the fact that schools across the state are losing high-quality teachers, teachers that very are difficult to replace. As the situation in New Berlin proves, it can happen anywhere.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Twainlover June 30, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I agree with a lot of what you spoke of Stormy Weather. Thanks :)
Twainlover June 30, 2012 at 02:22 PM
@ Greg: Wow, are you really that jaded? Or just on here to perturb people? If the latter, then at least fire back with substance.
grs July 01, 2012 at 08:07 PM
AA -- Thuggery at it's best : http://buffalobeast.com/koch-whore/ Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers. Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this… My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…
Greg July 01, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Substance hmmmm, OK. You sound like the high school girl that doesn't get the lead in the play, so she goes home and cries to her mother "everybody HATES meee", mother comforts her and tells her she should have gotten the lead. The next week upon getting a C on her math test, she goes home and cries to her mother "everybody HATES meee", mother rolls her eyes and tells her daughter that nobody hates her. Soon the girl is not invited to a slumber party, she runs and cries to her mother "everybody HATES meee", the mother looks hard at her daughter and starts to realize why everybody hates her.
Jeffrey Cartier September 28, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Tom, According to your logic the teachers we need are called something else: babysitters - they are cheap and work when needed. Sounds like the new landscape of public education to me. What are we waiting for? Think of all the money we could save.

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