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New Carnegie Report Examines Effects of Teacher Turnover

On March 19, I attended the release event of Beginners in the Classroom: What the Changing Demographics of Teaching Mean for Schools, Students, and Society, a report that examines the causes, conditions, and consequences of the rise of less-experienced teachers in the classroom.

Issued by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the report cites research showing that the shift toward greater numbers of inexperienced teachers has “serious financial, structural, and educational consequences for American public education—straining budgets, disrupting school cultures, and, most significantly, depressing student achievement.” (AACTE, too, seeks to address these problems through its Educator Workforce Advisory Task Force, an initiative of the new Innovation Exchange.)

During the release event, Susan Headden, senior associate at Carnegie Foundation, provided a report summary emphasizing the challenges beginning teachers face during the first few years of teaching and the impact teacher turnover has in public schools, particularly in high-need communities. The report suggests that while teacher attrition is at an unprecedented level with increased turnover in urban, rural, and low-performing schools, the phenomenon has gone relatively unnoticed and untreated.

A panel of early-career teachers from New York City and the Washington, DC, metropolitan area discussed the obstacles they faced entering the classroom and the varying professional, emotional, and leadership support they received that helped (and, sometimes, hindered) their transition into the profession, feelings of efficacy, and growth as teachers.

Afterward, a panel of research and policy experts discussed the potential of “at-risk” teachers to negatively affect student learning and the increased probability of their exit from the teaching profession. Examining the principal causes of attrition, a panelist stated that beginning teachers are set up to be ineffective due to an inadequate support system. Another panelist pointed out the detrimental effect on the profession of the apathetic attitude toward and acceptance of first-year teachers’ floundering as they wrestle with classroom management, learn a new curriculum, and struggle to meet the diverse learning needs of students.

The report provides some guidance and hope on this issue by pointing to promising strategies that provide targeted training and intensive support during the initial years of teaching. High-quality, comprehensive teacher induction consisting of selective and well-trained mentors and common planning time can keep beginning teachers in the classroom and help them get better faster. The following features of an effective induction program are identified in the report:

  • High-quality mentoring by trained mentors
  • Common planning time
  • Ongoing professional development
  • External networks of teachers
  • Standards-based evaluation
  • Dedicated resources
  • An adequate and stable source of funding

Meanwhile, AACTE’s task force has begun its work. An initial meeting held last week was the first step in addressing the group’s charge to examine the challenges to new teacher retention and then develop a conceptual framework for a collaborative initiative to address these challenges. To learn more about AACTE’s involvement in helping to increase novice teacher retention, visit the Innovation Exchange online.

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Jessica Milton

Associate Director of Education Writing and Research, AACTE