BONATO_HEAD_MOBILE

The seven practical ways

How education leaders can help prevent new teacher attrition

By Jamie Bonato | September | October 2019
California is facing a teacher shortage due to a “leakage” of new teachers leaving the classroom within the first five years of work (Ingersoll, 2003). New teacher attrition is costly, both financially and educationally, due to loss of student learning. Attrition due to retirement could be easily replenished by the number of new candidates entering the profession, but the number of new candidates is not keeping up with the numbers of those that leave within the first five years (Ingersoll, 2003). As a doctoral student, I studied the phenomenon of new California teacher attrition and attempted to further understand the conditions and factors that had influenced the decisions of new teachers to enter and leave teaching. The findings led to actionable recommendation items for education leaders, including school and district administrators. Why new teachers leave After conducting an in-depth survey and interviews with former teachers, I found that teachers entered teaching because they felt it would provide them with an opportunity to serve the community and society through an honorable and respectable job. New teachers left teaching because they felt isolated and unsupported, and they felt the financial compensation did not align with the workload the job demanded. Also, new teachers that left reported that they would have been more likely to stay in or return to teaching with an elevated level of support for students and for the teachers themselves. What can be done to prevent teacher attrition? Although the issue of teacher attrition cannot be fixed overnight, there are actions school and district leaders can take to encourage teachers to stay. Practical actions that can be taken include: 1. Provide professional development on a variety of instructional practices. This will allow teachers to learn instructional tools and have the knowledge to be flexible with their instructional techniques. 2. Celebrate teachers for their contributions. Local, state and national efforts to highlight the contributions of teachers could add to the honor and respect society holds for the teaching profession. 3. Develop relationships between principals and teachers. One way to do this is to visit the new teacher’s classroom and share a positive comment. 4. Place new teachers in mentoring programs and identify appropriate veteran teacher mentors on campus (Carver, 2003). If your district does not have an official mentoring program, create a site program. Either way, try to ensure new teachers have a veteran teacher on campus they can go to for help. 5. Create networks and allow teachers time to connect with other teachers and leaders with common instructional interests. This can help prevent a feeling of isolation. 6. Provide professional development and support to teachers to help them streamline the workload through techniques on more efficient grading, communication with parents and lesson development. Working more efficiently can reduce some of the time teachers spend outside of classroom instruction. 7. Assign new teachers reasonable teaching assignments, and limit the expectation that new teachers participate in many extracurricular activities. A streamlined work assignment and limited duties outside of the classroom can help new teachers focus on refining their teaching. References Carver, C. (2003). “The principal’s role in new teacher induction.” In Marge, S. (Ed.), Keeping good teachers. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104138/chapters/The-Principal's-Role-in-New-Teacher-Induction.aspx Ingersoll, R. (2003). “Is There Really a Teacher Shortage?” Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/gse_pubs/133

Jaime Bonato is a high school math teacher with 18 years of classroom experience. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and her studies focused on new teacher attrition and retention in the state of California. 

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