How to keep teachers in classrooms
Students simply come and go. They come during enrollment and leave after graduation day. This is a reality that all people expect to happen. It is a normal scenario. After a few years studying Mathematics, Reading and Language, History, and Science, the American students leave their classrooms behind to move on to another level until a university degree is earned. If the students don’t “leave” the school on the anticipated graduation ceremony, it is a signal that there is a problem. This scenario calls for the administration’s immediate and careful action so that students would “leave” school as expected.
On the contrary, the situation of teachers is different. The “exodus” of teachers from a school is now a big problem that the American educational society needs to address if the government truly cares about the future. In this context, to care about the future is to care about who nurtures the American students in the classroom. Putting the children on the wrong hands can actually put the country’s future at stake.
Are there enough teachers to mold the students? Are the teachers competent and qualified? Can these teachers promise years of service in the academic community? Can the schools keep qualified teachers? Or does the “exodus” of teachers just seem so uncontrollable?
THE TEACHER SHORTAGE IS NOT THE PROBLEM
In the past, teachers look forward to getting tenure. When they do, they start counting the graduation ceremonies that they have attended to. It means that they teach in schools for several years, making themselves significant players in the educational attainment of the students who are now professionals. In these modern times, however, being a teacher is no longer a lifelong career. This is true partly because these days, many teachers have more job options which they may grab, especially if the pay is much higher (Schwartz, Wurtzel & Olson, 2007, p. 27). In this case, it is important for the teacher’s salary scheme to be significantly competitive and attractive. Guarino, Santibanez & Daley (2006) define attractive as “desirable in terms of ease of entry and overall compensation which includes salary, benefits, working condition, and personal satisfaction). These policies related to compensation may be manipulated in school to get more teachers into teaching or to retain the qualified teachers who are already in school.
The basic principle that explains teacher supply, as advocated by Guarino, Santibanez & Daley (2006) is simple:
Individuals will become or remain teachers if
teaching represents the most attractive activity
to pursue among all activities available to them.
Unfortunately, teaching, these days, is not perceived as a lucrative job that students would want to enter into after graduation.
The number of teachers who “just come and go” is much more alarming than anything else in the education sector. Schwartz, Wurtzel & Olson (2007) mention that 30% of teachers in the US leave within three years and half of them have left within the first five years (p. 27). The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reported that at the end of academic year 1999-2000, about 287,370 teachers have left their profession (qtd. in Flatt, 2006, p. 3). Moreover, Watkins (2005) reported a 13.2 % teacher turnover rate while Liu (2007) found out that turnover rate is actually 14% (p.113). ). All these figures lead to only one conclusion: That the real problem is not the lack of teachers, but how to keep qualified teachers in the classrooms (Flatt, 2007, p.28). Yost (2006, p.59) and Greiner & Smith (2006, p.653) reiterated that several authors have made it clear that the real problem is how to retain teachers and not how to recruit them.
Liu (2007) argues that issues pertaining to teacher shortages are getting a lot of attention from policymakers because in the past several years, the education sector had found it difficult to bring qualified teachers inside the classrooms. According to Gerald & Husser (2003), the National Center for Educational Statistics predicts that kindergarten and primary-level student enrollment will reach, more or less, 56.7 million by the year 2013. This implies that 47.7 million teachers are needed in order to keep up with the increase in the enrollment figures (qtd. in Liu, 2007, p. 113).
WHO ARE TEACHING?
Before knowing how to retain teachers, it is important to know who they are. The question “Who are teaching?” should be clear to the policymakers so that they could design and implement rules on effective teacher retention.
Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley (2006) used empirical data to describe the profile of teachers in order to give policymakers an idea of the reality in the academic community. Recent empirical data suggest that women are more likely to teach, compared with men. There are four studies which concluded that the brightest college graduates, or those who scored high on measurable tests, are most likely to take non-teaching jobs (p.181). Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley also took note of findings implying that “academic ability was only one and not the most important of the characteristics valued by schools and districts in the hiring process” (p. 183). Policymakers need to know the profile of teachers so that they could formulate policies that will help the schools in matching student needs with appropriate teacher-facilitated intervention.
Speaking about urban poor schools, Gerhke (2005) suggests that there is a “mismatch” between the backgrounds of teachers and students in urban schools (p.15). This mismatch, according to Gerhke, can contribute to effective teaching which was defined as “the result of the right combinations of methods, materials, student characteristics, teacher characteristics, and the context in which teaching and learning occur” (p. 15).
WHO IS MOST LIKELYTO LEAVE TEACHING?
Angelina Claude had just finished her degree in Education when she decided to apply for a teaching position in one primary school in North Carolina. Applying as a teacher in her chosen school wasn’t complicated. In fact, she immediately got a confirmation that she’ll be hired as teacher right after her demo teaching. Because of quick application and friendly smiles she got from the school staff, Claude didn’t have second thoughts about getting the teaching position immediately after graduation. Claude even declined invitation for a job interview from another company, which is not related to teaching, because the school seemed to be a promising venue for academic and career growth.
Professor Allen, on the other hand, has been teaching for over thirty years. He enjoyed teaching and everything that he was doing in the academic community. However, his age forced him to leave his students and his teaching methods behind.
Claude and Professor Allen epitomize the best example of teachers who leave the classroom, and eventually the school at a given time. According to Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley (2006), attrition rate is high among new or young teachers and among teachers who are on retirement age. It is, on the other hand, lower for more experienced teachers or for those who have stayed in school for a considerable number of years (p. 185).
Teachers like Claude who chooses teaching over other professions has a concept in mind on what teaching brings to them. Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley (2006) say that for a new recruit like Claude, the reason for choosing to enter the teaching profession is the same reason that teachers choose to stay in the teaching profession. This implies that without the factors that made teachers choose teaching, finding another job can be an option (p. 188). This means that if Claude chose teaching because of the ease that she felt upon application, or because of the friendly atmosphere in the company, then, she has to experience the same situation once she’s already a part of the school. If not, leaving teaching can be an easy choice to make.
For Flatt (2007), teachers do teach because they want to change the world and because they want to make a difference (p. 3). Doing this is just impossible without favorable atmosphere.
THE REASONS FOR TEACHER TURNOVER AND ATTRITION RATE
First of all, Ingersoll (2001) clarified that turnover is not necessarily the same with teacher attrition. The former includes teachers who leave one school and jump to another teaching position in another school. Attrition, which can be voluntary or involuntary, pertains to either teachers ending their teaching career to find a non-teaching job or to teachers who just rest from teaching for a while then go back to teaching after some time (qtd. in Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley, 2006 p. 190). Among the possible reasons for attrition are retirement, taking another form of employment, stopping for a while, or remaining unemployed.
With a plethora of studies dealing with teacher turnover and attrition rates, there are already a number of reasons pointed out to explain why teachers, after a short while, just find themselves not wanting to teach anymore. These reasons have to be explored and be used as a basis for policy making in the education sector. These reasons, moreover, are not to be ignored since teachers are the most important factor in student learning (Schwatz, Wurtzel, & Olson, 2007, p.27). There is indeed, a strong call for making the teachers stay in the classrooms (Liu, 2007). Flatt (2007) believes that for a teacher to leave teaching means that the reasons are already complicated and unmanageable. Flatt doesn’t believe that teachers would leave teaching for trivial reasons. The preparation and the effort exerted by the teachers prior to getting in the field of teaching could definitely outweigh the person’s “whims” so it is unlikely for a teacher to just resign. Instead, resignation must have “resulted from a number of complicated factors” (p. 3).
The reasons cited in various literatures are not the same.
In a 2002-study, Voke cited family, personal circumstances, and job dissatisfaction as among the remarkable reasons for teacher attrition (Inman & Marlow, 2004, p. 606).
In 2003, McDonough claimed that disruptive students, uninvolved parents and invasive bureaucracy contributed to the “demoralization of teachers” (Inman & Marlow, 2004, p. 606).
Liu (2007) mentioned discipline problems among students as pervasive in campuses. These problems which may include disruptive behaviour, tardiness, lack of attention, disrespect, bullying, and violence, can destroy a healthy environment which is very important in carrying out teacher’s duties.
Flatt (2007) cited low administrative support, problems with student discipline, low student motivation, and a lack of teacher input in school, aside from pay issues, as the reasons for teachers not wanting to teach anymore (p. 5).
IDENTIFYING REASONS FOR ATTRITION THROUGH TEACHERS WHO STAY
Two associate professors from Mount Berry, GA, Dr. Duane Inman and Dr. Leslie Marlow (2007) conducted a study that aimed to “examine the reported attitudes of beginning teachers in order to identify perceived positive aspects of teaching as factors which may lead to teacher retention” (p. 605). Instead of asking the teachers who left, Inman & Marlow opted to examine attitude of those who stay. Their sample included teachers from randomly selected schools in Georgia. Using Gay’s Table of Random Numbers (1996), they identified 50 counties. After identifying the counties and schools, they contacted the principals of the selected schools and asked permission to allow five teachers in their schools to participate in the survey.
The survey questionnaires which were sent to the participants were 10-item instruments measuring professional attitude regarding 21 characteristics related to the stability of teachers’ career. Among the topics asked were demographics, teacher background, reasons for remaining in the profession, and job satisfaction. About 1,250 questionnaires were sent to participating schools but only 500 were returned. Out of the 500 participants, 40% were beginning teachers who have been teaching for less than ten years (p. 607).
Inman & Marlow categorized the respondents as belonging to phase 1 and those who belong to phase 2. Phase 1 teachers are the “beginning teachers” who have been teaching from 0 to 3 years. Phase 2, on the other hand, are the “experienced beginners” who have been teaching for four years up to 9 years (p. 608).
Inman & Marlow’s study revealed that the respondent-teachers believe that they do not get the prestige and authority that they believe they deserve to get. Their respondents disclosed that teachers do not enjoy the traits that other professionals do have like “specialty knowledge and skills, the unique contributions they make, the freedom afforded them to make decisions based on their best professional judgment, and the opportunity to organize their time and direct their own work” (p. 611). Instead, teachers revealed that their situations are very much different from the ideals:
Even a casual examination of most schools
will generally reveal that teachers must schedule all
breaks (lunch and bathroom), sign in and out of the
workplace, have limited access to the school building
unless the children are present, and conduct bus duty,
playground duty, hall duty, and lunchroom duty.
Additionally, few have private offices, access to
telephones for private calls, or time to confer with
colleagues. Research shows that dissatisfaction related
to these aspects of teaching are ones that are
approximately two-thirds of teachers and former teachers
cite as a reason for leaving the profession (Spears,
Gould, & Lee, 2000; Murphy, 1993;
qtd. In Inman & Marlow, 2004, p. 611).
PREDICTORS THAT ENCOURAGE TEACHERS TO REMAIN IN THE PROFESSION
Among the employment factors identified by the survey participants in Inman & Marlow’s study are (a) working conditions which include roles of teachers, administration support, volume of paperwork, size of classes, resources; (b) job security which include qualifications of teachers and tenure; (c) collegiality which refers to “similar teaching ideology, and expectation of intrinsic rewards. The result also revealed that job security, as perceived by the respondents, is the “highest ranking employment factor” as indicated by both phase 1 and phase 2 teachers (p. 609).
Bobeck (2002) cited five primary factors that influence teachers’ decision to remain in schools despite challenges: (a) relationships which include mentoring and administrative and parental support; (b) career competence and skills; (c) personal ownership of careers; (d) sense of accomplishment; and (e) sense of humor (qtd. in Yost, 2006, p. 59).
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO KEEP QUALIFIED TEACHERS IN THE CLASSROOMS
With teachers moving in and out of schools “as if through a `revolving door’” (Liu, 2007, p. 113), it is necessary to identify and outline clearly all the steps that different schools may adopt in order to save the educational system in the American soil. Various studies have given recommendations based on the data gathered. Some data were gathered through quantitative methods, some were generated using qualitative research tools, but the data seem to suggest the same findings: That the need to address teacher retention problem in the US is an urgent concern before enrollment figures soar high placing teacher supply way below the demands. The demand for teachers depends mainly on “student enrollments, class size targets, teaching-load norms, and budgetary constraints” (Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley, 2006, p. 176), with demand defined as “the number of teaching positions offered at a given level of overall compensation” and the supply of teachers defined as “the number of qualified individuals willing to teach at a given level of overall compensation” (p. 174).
First, schools must create a mentoring and induction program that will assist the neophyte in the teaching industry in their academic adjustments. Schwartz, Wurtzel & Olson (2007) reported that Switzerland, Japan and the US create a “special induction programme” (p. 28). In Japan, new teachers are undergoing subsidized 90-day training in and outside of the school (p. 28). Aside from this, each new teacher is paired with an experienced colleague to act as mentor. Both are given less teaching loads so they could have a chance to work together and assist each other the whole year. In Switzerland, novice teachers become qualified only after completing induction programme (p. 28). Mentoring is important because teachers need extensive support and learning (Schwartz, Wurtzel & Olson, 2007, p. 28) and because “effective teaching is not intuitive” (Watkins, 2005, p. 83). In fact, new teachers do struggle with the same issues every single day: classroom management, handling student differences, interacting with colleagues, and keeping open communication with the parents (Schwartz, Wurtzel & Olson, 2007, p. 27).
According to Watkins (2005), a good induction and retention program must include three important elements: (a) a strong coach who can grow and learn with the new teacher; (b) a steady support on innovative practices through research endeavors; and (c) includes learning with the experienced teachers and staff. Following all these three can heighten the new teacher’s feeling of commitment in the teaching profession (p. 84). Most importantly, mentoring is necessary because “new teachers cannot be left out to figure things out in vacuum” (Watkins, 2005, p. 83).
Moreover, Guarino, Santibanez & Daley (2006) found out that “schools that provided mentoring and induction programs, particularly those related to collegial support, had lower rates of turnover among beginning teachers” (p. 201). Colbert and Wolff suggested five steps:
(1) Design and implement a collaborative training
Program between school districts and university schools
of education of administrators and experienced teachers
in classroom observation and peer coaching strategies;
(2) Develop creative and flexible scheduling to provide
Opportunities to build trusting relationships that can
contribute to increased career satisfaction and retention
of beginning teachers; (3) Encourage experienced teachers
to participate in the professional growth of new teachers;
(4)University schools of education must collaborate with
local school districts and welcome them as equal partnets
in the education business; and (5) Collaboration between
universities, school districts, state departments of education,
and teacher credentialing commissions must continue to
develop, regardless of the availability of external funding.
Aside from effective mentoring, it is also advisable to develop a favorable working environment which is conducive both to learning and teaching. This kind of environment encourages the new teacher to have a sense of leadership that could increase teacher’s effectiveness which may lead to staying in the profession (Schwartz, Wurtzel & Olson, 2007, p.28). In this case, reducing class sizes is advisable. Having too many students in the classrooms prohibits the new teacher to innovate and practice creativity. Teaching teachers how to conduct classes effectively is a way to make the classroom a place to look forward to every single day. If the teacher doesn’t feel competent and effective, the self-esteem might be affected and make both the teacher and the students uncomfortable with each other. Schwartz, Wurtzel & Olson (2007) also suggest sharing of best practices (p. 28) so the new teacher will be introduced to practices which may also work in his or her class.
Another strategy to help reduce, if not eliminate, turnover and attrition rate is by addressing teacher’s pay. Several studies have found a significant correlation between salary and decision to remain in the profession. One of these studies was Liu’s (2007) which concluded that “salary is a predictor of how long a teacher stays in the classroom” (p. 116). Also, Inman & Marlow (2004) found out in their research that salary is the only external factor that could make the teachers stay in the profession. More phase 2 teachers indicated that salaries are among the reasons considered by the teachers should they think of resigning (p. 609). Likewise, Guarino, Santibanez & Daley (2006) found out higher salaries to be associated with lower rate of attrition (p. 200).
By analyzing Teacher Follow-up Survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, Liu (2007) came up with significant findings. The questionnaire contains 16 steps that schools might take in order to “preserve” qualified teachers: (1) providing higher salaries and/or better fringe benefits; (2) improving opportunities for professional advancements; (3) dealing more effectively with student discipline and making schools safer; (4) giving teachers more authority in the school and in their own classrooms; (5) increasing standards for students’ academic performance; (6) providing better resources and materials for classroom use; (7) decreasing class size; (8) giving special recognition and/or special assignments to excellent or outstanding teachers; (9) reducing the paperwork burden on teachers; (10) providing more support for new teachers (e.g. mentor teacher programs); (11) increasing parent involvement in the school; (12) reducing teacher workload; (13) providing merit pay or other pay incentives to teachers; (14) improving opportunities for professional development; (15) providing tuition reimbursement for coursework required for certification or career advancement; and (16) revising health insurance program to include stress reducing seminars, counseling, and physical fitness options (p. 114).
Among the 16 factors identified in the test, three are seen as most effective ways to encourage teachers to remain in the profession. These include: (a) providing higher salaries; (b) dealing effectively with discipline matters among students; and (c) giving teachers more authority in school. These findings are consistent with other studies conducted previously. For example, the idea of “giving teachers more authority in school” is consistent with Inman & Marlow’s findings reiterating that an unfavorable condition and lack of authority can cause a teacher to leave school (p. 611).
Guarino, Santibanez & Daley (2006) also found out through the surveys analyzed that “self-reported dissatisfaction with salary was associated with higher attrition and a decreased measure of commitment” (p. 194). In 1993, King conducted a survey among a group of African American teachers from a particular institution of higher education and found out that intrinsic rewards outweigh salary factors and prestige of work. Intrinsic rewards include a chance to work with young people, the perception that their abilities were matched with teaching, and the belief advocating a message that emphasizes the roles of teachers in making the society a better world to live in (Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley, 2006, p. 183).
Although it’s been almost a common knowledge that high salary can make a teacher stay, it is, however, not always viable for a school to increase the salary of teachers just to please them. Ingersoll & Smith (2003) mentioned that increasing the salary of teachers to match those of other professionals is such a very expensive move (qtd. In Liu, 2007, p. 147). Second, Morice and Murray (2003) revealed that performance-based or merit-based increase is subject to a lot of complications like peer competition, budget problems, and difficulty in assessing each teacher (qtd. in Liu, 2007, p. 117). Besides, according to Liu, there is no strong piece of evidence that says salary increase can directly and positively influence achievement of students (p. 117).
Schools can’t just increase teachers’ salaries without studying if such salary increases will have direct impact on student performance. Without any strong evidence on this relationship, schools can just find other ways to motivate teachers to stay in the campus.
Another strategy that may be used to keep qualified teachers in their jobs is by addressing problems on student discipline because many teachers get “disenchanted” when faced with the school reality regarding student discipline (Liu, 2007, p. 118).
In order to divert students’ attention to something remarkable, a good sense of leadership may be promoted in school (Liu, 2007. p. 118). This helps develop discipline among the students, thereby reducing the number of incidents related to negative behavior.
Solving student problems calls for the involvement of the administrators or principals (Liu, 2007, p. 118) and the teachers. Principals have several roles in keeping the teachers in school.
Lastly, in order to retain teachers, they should be encouraged to do self-reflection which could help them review and evaluate their own standing in the classroom and in the school as well. During reflection, it helps if the teachers also find time to be aware of the students’ background. According to Diffily and Perkins (2002), “Genuine learning takes place when the teacher is able to make education meaningful by having an awareness of the students’ background “ (qtd. in Gerhke, 2005, p. 15). It is also important to note that knowing someone’s cultural and social identity can lead to better understanding of the students, their identities and their experiences (Gerhke, 2005, p. 15).
VALUES AS TOOLS FOR COPING WITH THE CRITICAL YEARS IN TEACHING
The most critical part of being a teacher is the beginning. Regardless of the experience of the newly-hired teacher, the values that they have even before they enter the field of teaching will help them cope with the critical times.
One of the values that Yost (2006) suggests is resiliency. Novice teachers, Yost claims, needs necessary tools to help them cope with the day-to-day challenges of classroom encounter. Teachers who are resilient were found to have stayed longer in school (Yost, 2006, p. 65).
Job satisfaction among teachers is necessary to keep them committed to their jobs (Cano & Miller, 1992), thereby reducing the chance that they would leave teaching (qtd. in Huysman, 2008, p. 31). For Cano & Miller, the effort that a person puts in his or her job is directly related to his or her satisfaction in the job that he or she holds. This is why it is important to keep the teachers satisfied in their jobs. It was also noted by Wu & Short (1996) that when the teacher’s commitment is limited, his or her expectation of the student decreases (p. 32). This is unfair for the students because they are not given a chance to reach their full potential. According to Gerhke (2005), successful teachers do not lower their standards in order to accommodate students. Instead, Gerhke argues that, “Successful teachers believe that all students can learn. Therefore, they should maintain high expectations because lowering standards is a disservice to the students” (p. 32).
Among the factors that contribute to job satisfaction are security, activity, social service, variety, and ability utilization (Huysman, 2008, p.34) – all of which are intrinsic factors. On the other hand, four of the lower-ranked dimensions of job satisfaction are extrincic factors including compensation, company policies, opportunities for advancement and recognition (Huysman, 2008, p. 34). In this study, Huysman found out that the extrinsic factors are not strong factors for the “homegrown” but a significant one to “transplanted.” Homegrown teachers are those who were educated in rural areas, just like the school where he or she is teaching. Transplanted, on the other hand, are those who were educated outside the place (p. 35). Huysman added that principals and other heads should focus on job dissatisfaction, and not on job satisfaction (p. 37).
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