Schools need to address the problem of teacher turnover

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Lily Dawson

TEACHERS IN NEED. In this editorial cartoon, a new teacher gets some advice from a veteran teacher.

Sevier students arrived at the beginning of the school year to a major surprise: many staff members had left the school. In all, nearly 20 teachers either transferred to another school or left Kingsport City Schools completely.

The term “teacher turnover” describes when classroom teachers leave the teaching profession or transfer to another position. Teachers leaving their classrooms can have a major impact on students, other teachers, and the school community.

Teachers leave every year, but the COVID-19 pandemic no doubt caused more teachers to leave. According to the “Center for State and Local Government Excellence”, there are 3.5 million public school teachers in the United States, and 38% of them considered changing jobs during the pandemic.

During the first few months of last school year, about 1400 teachers left in the state of Arizona alone, according to the “Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association”.

According to “The Learning Policy Institute”, teacher turnover can cost school districts roughly $20,000 per teacher for schools in urban areas. New teachers are inexperienced and need more support and training. Districts need to make investments into turning inexperienced teachers into experienced teachers.

There are several reasons why teachers may leave. According to reports from the “University Council for Educational Administration” and the “Learning Policy Institute”, lack of control over teaching decisions, salary, class sizes, pressure from testing and accountability, and lack of opportunity for advancement are just some of the reasons teachers leave.

Teachers who stay are impacted, too, when their colleagues leave. The “Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development” surveyed Tennessee teachers and found that the teachers who are left behind have to deal with several problems.

Those problems include repetitive professional development and less time with students because they need to support their new colleagues. Teachers also reported that the loss of experienced teachers means that there is less opportunity to innovate and introduce new ideas.

Once a teacher leaves, it can be hard to find a replacement. Less people are interested in teaching. In high-poverty areas, it can be even harder to find replacements.

According to the “Washington Post”, nine out of ten teachers are hired to replace teachers who left voluntarily. More than two-thirds of teachers quit before retirement. A teacher shortage will soon hit the whole country, which means good, experienced teachers will be hard to find.

Students suffer because of teacher turnover, too. According to a “Calder Institute” study, students in grade levels with a higher turnover rate score lower in language arts and math. Eliminating teacher turnover, according to this study, “can increase student achievement by 2 percent to 4 percent of a standard deviation”.

The Calder Institute also stated that this constant turmoil hurts schools’ progress on a structural level, too. Constant turnover means that schools are always starting over rather than moving forward. It is difficult for a school to grow when it constantly has to retrain its teachers.

Teacher turnover is a horrible problem. Schools need their experienced teachers. Without them, the whole school community suffers.

Teachers do more than just teach. They build strong relationships with students and coworkers, serve their community, and provide extra-curricular activities. Losing a teacher is painful, but losing over a dozen disrupts the entire school.

School districts can fix this problem. Teachers need support from their principal, respect, appreciation, real input into how the school works and input into their professional learning. They also need very few “extra duties” so they can focus on their job of educating students.

Teacher turnover is a big problem. All school districts need to do to fix it is to listen to their teachers.