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TEACHER ATTRITION: A COSTLY LOSS TO THE NATION AND TO THE STATES: Alliance Analysis Finds That Teacher Vacancies Cost the United States Close to $5 Billion Annually

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"The price of losing so many teachers, particularly so many who have just begun their teaching careers, is enormous in terms of dollars," said Bob Wise

As Labor Day weekend heralded the last vestiges of summer, students from around the country put away their beach towels and swimming trunks in favor of backpacks and that perfect outfit for the first day of school. At the same time, the nation’s teachers are making last-minute preparations for their first day in front of a new group of students. However, more than 394,000 teachers will not be returning to the schools in which they taught last year, according to Teacher Attrition: A Costly Loss to the Nation and to the States, a new brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education. What’s more, replacing these individuals could cost the country up to $5 billion. (These figures do not include the teachers who retire).

Although some of the individuals who are leaving their schools are veteran teachers, many of them fall in the category of “new” teachers-that is, those who have taught school for fewer than five years. In fact, almost 50 percent of teachers nationally will leave the profession within the first five years of entering it. Of the total number of teachers not returning to their schools, more than 173,000 (44 percent) are leaving their profession altogether, costing the nation about $2 billion in replacement costs. Others are transferring to other schools, at an approximate cost of another $3 billion.

“The price of losing so many teachers, particularly so many who have just begun their teaching careers, is enormous in terms of dollars,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and the former governor of West Virginia, “but it’s also costly in terms of the quality of education we provide our students. Teachers who stay in the classroom gain experience, and their students benefit.”

Teachers cite a lack of support and poor working conditions among the primary factors for leaving. Beginning teachers are particularly vulnerable because they are more likely than their more experienced colleagues to be assigned low-performing students. Despite the added challenges that come with teaching higher-need children, most new teachers are given little professional support, feedback, or demonstration of what it takes to help their students succeed.

The Alliance brief explains that comprehensive induction programs have proven effective at keeping good teachers in the classroom. In fact, studies demonstrate that new teacher turnover rates can be cut in half through comprehensive induction-a combination of high-quality mentoring, professional development and support, scheduled interaction with other teachers in the school and in the larger community, and formal assessments for new teachers during at least their first two years of teaching.

Successful models from around the country have shown that comprehensive induction can more than pay for itself. For example, using a two-year program in California as a model, Anthony Villar of the New Teacher Center at University of California, Santa Cruz, found that comprehensive induction returns $1.37 for every $1 invested. And yet, across the nation, states spend millions of dollars each year to replace teachers who leave the classroom instead of investing in these programs, which simultaneously retain newer teachers and help them become better, more effective teachers in a shorter time.

The loss-to taxpayers, schools, educators, students, and communities-is immense. It represents, for example, approximately $8.5 million in North Dakota, $179 million in Pennsylvania, and a whopping half a billion dollars for a large state like Texas. (A complete state-by-state breakdown is included as part of the brief).

The Alliance for Excellent Education calculated the annual cost of teacher attrition using data from the U.S. Department of Education, an analysis by Dr. Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania for the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future, and statistics from the National Education Association.

Teacher Attrition: A Costly Loss to the Nation and to the States is available here.

 

Induction into Learning Communities Stresses Need for Teacher Induction Programs 

Most new teachers receive only limited assistance from mentors, who may not have the time or training needed to provide the kind of instructional assistance new teachers need, according to a new report from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). The report, Induction into Learning Communities, argues for a movement away from traditional mentoring programs and toward induction systems that include a network of people, supports, and processes that focus on ensuring that new teachers become effective in their work.

“We want all teachers to have a strong start when they begin their careers in the classroom but in order to achieve that goal, we must rethink the way we support teachers,” said NCTAF President Tom Carroll. “The era of isolated teaching in stand-alone classrooms cannot continue. School leaders must create an environment where all members of the community share responsibility for each other’s success and for the success of all students in the school.”

The U.S. model of a “teacher on an island” stands in stark contrast to the induction systems and high levels of interaction among teachers internationally. In fact, the NCTAF report highlights open-door policies, candid conversations about lessons, and “opportunities for reflection and discussion that are the hallmarks of sustained programs that introduce novices to the valued norms of the teaching community” in countries such as Switzerland, Japan, China, New Zealand, and France. In each of these countries, the report noted, “induction is not viewed as a tool for teacher retention, but as a means to help beginning teachers reach their potential.”

In the United States, however, most beginning teachers receive little or no support. If they are lucky, they are paired with veteran teachers who act as mentors and work with them on a one-to-one basis. Sadly, the end goal of these programs is often not to help new teachers reach their potential, but just to help them “survive” the first year.

To help stem the tide of teachers leaving the classroom and help new teachers develop their skills, the report argues for induction systems that go beyond mentoring and include such critical elements as “opportunities to observe and be observed by other teachers, common planning time to work with colleagues and share lessons, participation in an external network of teachers, reduced class preparations and assignment of non-teaching duties.”

“It has become clear that comprehensive induction greatly improves the chances of a teacher staying at their school and in the profession,” said Carroll. “Without strong induction programs, almost one out of every two teachers has left the classroom by the end of the fifth year.”

The complete report is available at http://www.nctaf.org/documents/nctaf/NCTAF_Induction_Paper_2005.pdf.

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