Teacher retention as important as recruitment

Shortly after Mayor Bloomberg proposed giving new teachers in the “top tier” of their college class $25,000 to repay their student loans, UFT President Michael Mulgrew responded by sending a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott advising the city to modify the program to help address a problem more pressing than teacher recruitment: teacher retention.

Research shows that while pay may attract teachers, it’s working conditions and support that keep them on board. The Department of Education has little to show on that count. In fact, the policies and actions of the DOE and Mayor Bloomberg seem designed to encourage teachers to leave after a few years.

New recruits receive too little professional development or mentoring as they confront the challenges of teaching in New York City. They watch in dismay as this administration extends the probation of many teachers up for tenure and regularly threatens layoffs, thereby undermining their sense of job security. The DOE releases erroneous Teacher Data Reports to unfairly embarrass teachers. And now new teachers have to accept a new sixth pension tier with sharply reduced benefits, making a career of teaching much less attractive.

Teachers need to feel they are effective. They stay in schools where they get support and work with experienced teachers who can help them master their profession.

The revolving door spins unabated. New teacher attrition averages between 8 and 12 percent annually. New York City loses almost half of all the teachers it hires within their first five years as they join other school systems or pursue other careers, taking with them the experience they have gained.

Mulgrew correctly notes that the city must do more than simply attract new teachers. It must also make every effort to help those candidates “learn the craft of teaching and build a successful career in our schools.” Anything short of that is tantamount to running in place, where we expend a lot of effort but ultimately go nowhere.

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