Everyone seems to be talking about how to attract quality teachers to the profession. This is absolutely important—but not many people are talking about how to provide a rich, supportive, engaging, and inspiring climate to help retain high quality teachers once they are working in America’s schools.
Why should we care about this? With one in five teachers quitting in the first five years (NCTAF, 2003), and some early data showing these very teachers who quit are the ones with a higher measured ability (RAND 2004), this is a problem we can’t ignore.
Many of our schools have become institutions focused only on student achievement in the form of standardized tests—to the determent of the climate for students and teachers.
We need to make teaching a sustainable career, so that the people who enter this important profession can be challenged, supported, and empowered at every stage. With dwindling budgets, pressures from No Child Left Behind and an anti-teacher culture, making teaching more sustainable is not on anyone’s radar.
This has to change, because of course, the problems are interrelated. Districts spend tens of thousands of dollars every year interviewing, hiring, and training teachers (Shockley, R., Guglielmino, P., & Watlington, E. 2006). With effort, planning, and a little more investment, schools can reduce attrition and improve the climate overall for students and teachers.
Read the complete edited version of this article in Educational Leadership magazine’s digital edition.