EDITORIAL

Report shines light on teacher attrition

Posted 7/31/14

The process of attrition – allowing a workforce to decrease in size by opting not to fill positions vacated by retirees or departing employees – is typically thought of as a cost-saving measure. …

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EDITORIAL

Report shines light on teacher attrition

Posted

The process of attrition – allowing a workforce to decrease in size by opting not to fill positions vacated by retirees or departing employees – is typically thought of as a cost-saving measure. Indeed, in the midst of the budget woes of recent years, many municipal leaders have utilized attrition toward that end.

A recent report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, however, indicates attrition among public school teachers may be costing the Ocean State millions.

The document, entitled “On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers,” was released recently after a joint study with University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll. The report breaks down what it says are the costs of teacher attrition on a state-by-state basis, and estimated the issue has led to the loss of $2.2 billion nationwide.

The report classifies attrition as teachers leaving for another public or private school or leaving the teaching profession altogether. It points to the departure of educators from low-funded, high-poverty schools as a major trend, and indicates such schools lose roughly 20 percent of staff during a given year – 50 percent higher than other schools.

While the associated dollar figures are significant, the report cites the educational impact of attrition as even more troubling.

“Teacher attrition hits states and school districts in the wallet, but students and teachers pay the real price,” Bob Wise, a former West Virginia governor and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, said in a statement. “The monetary cost of teacher attrition pales in comparison to the loss of human potential associated with hard-to-staff schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In these schools, poor learning climates and low achievement often result in students – and teachers – leaving in droves.”

To combat attrition, the report calls for the creation of more effective induction and support programs, particularly for newer educators. The overall atmosphere of a school, the report states, is directly tied to retention rates for newer teachers.

The attrition issue, as outlined in the recent report, can be seen as a microcosm of the broader issues facing public schools, particularly those in more economically disadvantaged communities. Success requires not only resources and accountability but stability and continuity. The loss of institutional knowledge and experience has a detrimental effect on any workplace or enterprise, and public schools are no different.

There is no simple answer to the challenges facing our public schools. But finding ways to keep quality teachers in the same schools and classrooms seems like a good place to start, particularly in communities most sorely in need.

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