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Teacher Retention Is Harder Than Recruitment

Schools across the country are still struggling to recruit qualified teachers to fill openings as the fall semester is about to begin ("Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional)," The New York Times, Aug. 10). At least that's the case in math, physical science and special education. But I submit that the larger issue is retaining such teachers (" 'The Teacher Shortage' Is No Accident-It's the Result of Corporate Education Reform Policies," In These Times, Aug. 25).

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, attrition costs schools between $1 billion and $2.2 billion each year.  The churn hits schools with high-poverty student enrollment hardest, as well as minority teachers. What's so troubling, aside from the pecuniary costs, is that it militates against efforts to diversify the nation's teaching force.  With underperforming schools composed disproportionately of black and Hispanic students, the flight of teachers from these two racial groups poses daunting challenges.

Districts are increasing relying on non-certified teachers and hoping that they will learn as they go along.  I understand the importance of mentoring, but I don't believe it is enough for success without prior student teaching experience. Nor do I believe that dedication and passion are sufficient.  I dealt with this subject recently in describing the experience of two Sarah Lawrence College professors ("Two Weeks to Admit Teaching Is Hard," Reality Check, Aug. 10).

If public schools are going to hold on to top talent, they are going to have to do far more to support teachers.  And the media are going to have to do a better job reporting on successful schools and their teachers. 


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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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