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Retaining teachers is a problem; senior teachers help

January 30, 2011 pm31 1:16 pm

NY1 interviewed Cathie Black last week, and among other things, asked about lousy teacher retention in New York City. She stumbled, as teacher retention is not on her radar; breaking seniority is.  (summary, from Gotham Schools, below the fold)

Bloomberg and (Klein) and Gates and Kopp and (Rhee) and now Black like to talk about the problem of “bad teachers.” That’s bunk. We all know that, at least in New York City, about half of all teachers (what’s the real percent? 43? I forget) hired never make it to tenure. They were good enough to get hired, but decided they could not make it, or an administrator decided (rightly or wrongly) for them.

Anthony Cody, Oakland teacher and teacher-activist, poses a different problem: How do we keep teachers in the classroom? He writes about keeping science teachers in Oakland. Read. This guy is talking about giving kids better teachers. He is talking about changing the game on the ground. This guy is talking about making teaching a job that people want to make a career of. If we want to improve education, this is the conversation we need to be having.

TeamScience Tames Teacher Turnover in Oakland

By Anthony Cody on January 30, 2011 10:22 AM | No Comments | No Recommendations

Four years ago in Oakland, one out of three science teachers in Oakland was a first year teacher. Due to a combination of the lowest pay in the Bay Area and some of the most challenging conditions as well, we have had a tough time retaining teachers, especially in the field of science, where well-educated individuals have so many options. Many of our science teachers enter through an internship program that only asks for a two-year commitment. Three years after they begin, 75% of these interns are gone.

This high turnover creates serious problems. Novice teachers have energy and spirit, but usually lack the curricular and management tools to teach well. We have many small schools, so it is not unusual to have a school where the science department chair is a second or third-year teacher. When I started teaching, I survived in part because of a few experienced colleagues who shared tips and lessons with me, and reassured me when I had a tough day. Our novices are often surrounded by other novices, and lack that reservoir of expertise.

In the year 2008, we formed a partnership with the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, and, with funding from the Sidney Frank Foundation, launched TeamScience. We recruited twenty veteran teachers from across the District, and assigned them each one or two novice teachers to support. Our goals were to increase collaboration and collegiality across the District, to build the leadership of the mentors, to increase the effectiveness of new teachers, and to reduce the level of turnover.

read the rest at Living in Dialogue, where Anthony Cody writes about improving our schools.

Summary of Black stumble on high attrition from NY1 interview, as reported at Gotham Schools:

Another moment of exposure had to do with teacher attrition. After a discussion about the “last in, first out” policy, Louis asked Black if she was concerned that almost half of New York City school teachers leave after 6 years in the classroom.

Here’s how Black responded:

Well you have to know, like, what’s really at the heart of the issue. I don’t know that we know what’s really at the heart of the issue. Teaching is a hard job. We want the ones who are committed. We want the ones who make a difference. We want the ones who want to work hard and really change the lives of these young people. They’re there on a mission. So, you know, some are going to leave.

She then returned to the “last in, first out” question, arguing that perhaps teachers would be less likely to leave if they weren’t concerned about being laid off. “Right now there have to be a lot of teachers thinking, ‘Maybe I don’t have a job next year.’ Can we afford to have thousands of teachers think to themselves, ’I have to leave the system now because I may not have a job in a few months?’ That’s going to be a catastrophe,” she said.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2011 pm31 2:20 pm 2:20 pm

    Thanks for pointing him out. I’ve subscribed to his blog now. I especially appreciated his piece on Sir Ken Robinson. Most people just link to the videos. I’m not big on videos, and was grateful to finally read some of his ideas, along with Anthony’s analysis.

  2. January 31, 2011 am31 12:00 am 12:00 am

    Very interesting. Do you know exactly where one might find the stat on how many teachers make to tenure in NYC?

    • January 31, 2011 am31 12:04 am 12:04 am

      From the UFT: Attrition Summary (it was in the GS piece)

      • fact checker permalink
        February 1, 2011 am28 1:14 am 1:14 am

        probationary discontinuance (denial of tenure) rates are very, very low in the paper you posted – less than 5%. that means that over 95% of teachers get tenure.

        • February 1, 2011 am28 3:32 am 3:32 am

          There is what I assume is an unintentional mean spiritedness in that comment. If someone cannot make it, and leaves, isn’t that better for all parties concerned than that person staying for tenure evaluation and being rejected?

          In the suburbs, even those that churn new teachers (and there are quite a few, including fancy ones in Westchester and Long Island), that teachers who are unlikely to receive tenure are counseled into looking elsewhere a full year in advance, and that the schools rarely need to actually deny tenure.

          You also are misleading. You write “that means over 95% of teachers get tenure” but without specifying which teachers, you are making a misleading statement.

        • TeacherHusband permalink
          February 2, 2011 am28 2:17 am 2:17 am

          The probationary discontinuance rates are low in comparison to the teachers who straight up leave. If you wanted to claim that most teachers get tenure, you would compare look at the current number of third year teachers who were just granted tenure and compare them to the number of first year teachers that were accepted [three years ago]. You’d also take note of teachers that were not given tenure due to a U (warranted or otherwise) yet decided to continue to teach.

          It’s also worth noting that if teachers try to dispute a U within their first three years, they’re fired for daring to challenge the DoE. So a principal can give an unwarranted U and know that the new teacher has to choose to either accept it (and be denied on-time tenure) or dispute it and lose their career entirely.

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