Who Benefits From Teacher Turnover?

Because complex stories invariably involve both winners and losers, journalists are schooled to ask ‘“Who benefits?” when doing their reporting.  Even in the worst of situations, some people and organizations seem to end up benefiting. For example, in a city with badly maintained roads, more cars are damaged and auto repair shops make more money; in a town with inadequate or unsafe drinking water, those who sell bottled water profit. And when reporters dig deeper, they often find that the beneficiaries are the major obstacles to remedying unfair situations.

However, I cannot recall anyone asking that all-important question about the exceptionally high rate of turnover–some call it churn’–in our teaching force.

So let’s ask it now: Who benefits from teacher turnover?

Precise “churn” numbers are hard to come by, but somewhere between 30% and 50% of all new teachers leave the profession within their first five years. Turnover is not evenly or randomly distributed: teachers in low-income neighborhoods leave in much larger numbers. I’ve been in schools with annual turnover rates of 25-35% every year.

Turnover is not inherently bad, of course.  When older teachers ‘age out’ of the profession, they retire and are replaced. Alternate-certification programs like Teach for America operate from the premise that most of its ‘graduates’ will not make a career out of teaching, adding to the churn.  Some new teachers turn out to be pretty bad and are let go, and others discover that teaching is a lot harder than they expected and look for greener pastures.

The churn, which seems to be increasing, has had a profound impact on our teaching force. As recently as 1987, schools were hiring only about 65,000 new teachers a year.  By 2008, the last year I found data for, schools were hiring 200,000 new teachers.  As a consequence of the churn, one-quarter of our teachers have less than five years of experience, and that’s a huge change: In 1987 the modal ‘years of experience’ was 15—we had more teachers with 15 years of teaching experience than any other.  Today the modal teacher is a rookie in her first year on the job. {{1}}

So, who benefits when schools have to find replacements for so many teachers every year?

The obvious answer would seem to be school boards (and taxpayers), because green teachers are cheaper than white-haired veterans.  Payments into retirement plans are lower, because those dollars are a function of salaries, and new teachers earn less. {{2}}

But I nominate schools and colleges of education as the primary beneficiaries of churn.  After all, someone has to train the replacements.  Consider one state, Illinois: In 2012, its institutions of higher education graduated over 43,000 education majors, presumably the majority of them trained to be teachers.{{3}}   Illinois K-12 schools employ about 145,000 teachers. If 20% leave in a given year, that creates 29,000 vacancies–I.E., jobs for 29,000 replacements.

If 10% opt out, the schools need 14,500 trained replacements.

But if only 5% of Illinois’ teachers left every year, there would be just 7,250 job openings for the state’s 43,000 graduates who majored in education.

So is in the interest of Illinois higher education and its teacher-training institutions to help make teaching a job that more people want to keep?  Or do they benefit from the churn?

As the lawyers say, asked and answered.

I don’t mean to pick on Illinois.{{4}}  Every institution in America that prepares teachers is on the horns of a dilemma.  They want classroom teaching to be seen as an attractive career option so undergraduates will choose to major in education instead of, say, sociology or nursing. But, on the other hand, they benefit when teaching jobs are plentiful, and so the exodus of teachers from the classroom works to their advantage.

So, who benefits from our wasteful churning system? Who benefits when teaching turns out to be an unsatisfying profession for so many?

If I am right about schools of education and school boards being the beneficiaries of churn, then it follows that neither of them can be entrusted with the responsibility for making teaching a genuine profession.  In fact, it may turn out that schools of education and school boards have been and will be obstacles to genuine change.

Instead, we may have to ask those who lose from constant churn to provide the leadership.

Who are the losers, and what can they do to make teaching an appealing job?  I have a few ideas about this, but I’d like to hear your thoughts first.


[[1]]1. If you haven’t read ‘The American Public School Teacher: Past, Present & Future,’ I hope you will. (Harvard Education Press, 2011)  Lots of valuable essays, edited by Darrel Drury and Justin Baer. Full disclosure: I blurbed it.[[1]]

[[2]]2. If school boards help new teachers succeed by mentoring them as they learn classroom management and other tricks of the trade, then churn is not a way to save money.  However, my experience has been that many, perhaps most, school systems are content to let new teachers ‘sink or swim’ on their own.[[2]]

[[3]]3. The largest producer of teachers, Illinois State University, has more than 5000 would-be teachers enrolled, and its website reports that one of four new teachers hired in Illinois between 2008-2011 was an ISU graduate.[[3]]

[[4]]4. Catalyst Magazine reports that enrollment in pre-teaching programs is dropping in Illinois, which suggests that more young people are aware of what many call ‘the war on teachers’ that’s been going on for the past 10 years or so.  “After years of holding steady, enrollment fell significantly in 2011 and 2012—by 23 percent overall,” it reports.[[4]]

44 thoughts on “Who Benefits From Teacher Turnover?

  1. Schools of education certainly could be obstacles to change. However, schools of ed that foster innovation and focus on leadership in schools can be agents of change as well. Not all schools of ed are alike.


    • You are right, of course, and some schools of education play key leadership roles, but I think they are the exception, not the rule.


    • How do they profit? Bringing in new teachers doesn’t require buying new textbooks or changing curriculum, does it?


      • If you have more new teachers you are more dependent on packaged curriculum, training, consultants, etc. You have to have something that rookies can walk in the door and use. And in particular, once you get to the point where most rookies are taking over from other inexperienced teachers, and their peers are inexperienced, you’re really stuck. It isn’t like taking over the classroom and file cabinet of a 20 year teacher in a department with a 15 year department head.


  2. I also believe that charter schools, more specifically their operators, benefit from the churn. This keeps salaries low and therefore the return high for these operators. This is magnified for systems of charters and probably more so for a portfolio district like New Orleans.


  3. A strong learning community is built through partnerships. Partnerships are formed through relationships, and they aren’t built (strong ones) overnight. As a parent, I can say that my ultimate wish is that my children are being inspired to wonder and eager to learn for the rest of their life. I can work on that outside of the school day – but I need the teachers (& admin & other staff) to model that for them during the school day. If I have to choose between low to no turnover (with a mediocre teacher) or a “green” teacher that is an inspiration….I will no doubt choose the new teacher. I think it’s important that we as a community support & recognize those exceptional teachers for their efforts so that they don’t want to leave…they are far more valuable than the few dollars I’ll save each year on taxes for a new, younger replacement.


    • Unfortunately the public school system has not supported innovation and inspiring teachers, generally speaking. Consider who governs public schools.


    • Great observations, Gwen. Studies of the Parent -Teacher Home Visit program in Sacramento found, unexpectedly, that teacher turnover significantly decreased after making relationship-building home visits with low income families. In my interviews of some of those teachers, they told me “I never felt before that I could make a difference in my students’ lives, but now I know how to make a real connection to families and collaborate with them to improve their children’s learning. I was going to leave teaching because I felt so hopeless.”


    • The real question is: How do all those inspiring green teachers turn into mediocre experienced teachers?


  4. Corporate takeover hedgers who front the likes of TFA/LEE certainly profit from the intentional churn they make promising temporary recruits careers in politics. After their little stints stealing critical years from students only to bail on them and trash teaching as a career they are urged on to go vote against all time honored retention incentives like pensions and progressive tax structures and democratic control of schools. And the icing on the cake is that with each new batch of unwitting carpetbaggers collective memory of investing in anything for the sake of an equitable common good fades a little more.


  5. John:

    I am just finishing a book and I talk about this issue. I don’t address who benefits, but I do discuss why it occurs. Another related issue is absenteeism. Some districts experience in excess of 15% absenteeism. No private business could survive with that type of performance.
    The combination of high turnover coupled with absenteeism creates enormous costs, both financial and performance.



  6. This is slightly off topic and perhaps deserving of another blog, but are you following what’s happening in Ridgefield, Connecticut, regarding the Common Core practice tests? All but 35 of the 400 juniors there opted out, leading the HS principal to BAN what she calls ‘New Learning” during the 3 days of testing. Here’s the line from the newspaper report: “Dr. Gross also wrote in her email to parents: “As before, NO NEW LEARNING can occur in a class where a Junior is absent for testing.” This includes classes in which even one Junior is present.”

    An educator banning learning!!! It is just mind-boggling..

    Here’s the link:


  7. I think the losers are the young teachers who DO want to stay in the profession, but who don’t receive the support they really need once they start teaching. Teaching is so hard and so exhausting, and it can be grating to hear your friends talk about how “lucky” you are to have summers off, especially when in reality, you’re spending your summer developing curriculum and revamping lessons. I would love to make teaching my lifelong profession. I wish I wasn’t concerned about what my friends and family thought of teaching as a career choice, but in reality, it’s seen as a “soft” option by many people. I don’t know who’s to blame for that, but I do wish something could be done to change 1. the support new teachers get their first 5 years in the classroom and 2. the reputation of the teaching profession, especially among young graduates of prestigious colleges and universities.


  8. I applaud your efforts to be cynical, but I am not sure I understand the connection. Ed schools do not get more applicants because there is turnover. If anything, they should get fewer because fewer people are attracted to the profession. Schools boards do not benefit either because of the costs associated with recruitment.


    • I too am unsure of the conclusion about school boards. Churn leads to less effective teaching, lower achievement, bigger gaps, curricular disconnect, student disengagement, higher dropout rates, etc. So I am not sure a school board saving money at the cost of publicly recognized worsening schools is a “benefit”.


  9. Not only do ed schools not particularly benefit from “churn”, but they lose out, if you want to be cynical, because teachers use ed schools to rack up professional development education which increases their column placement.

    The nation may be hiring more teachers for reasons entirely unrelated to churn–larger population, more special ed, charter caps, etc.



  10. I think who benefits is the wrong question. What makes a successful teacher is much more relevant to the issue at hand. In California we have had a terrific new teacher support system called Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program for many years. Teachers in their first two years in the profession received a veteran Support Provider who worked directly with the Beginner, giving support and feedback on a daily/weekly basis. That personal connection made for a much more successful Beginner, many more of whom continued in the profession.


    • The questions are not mutually exclusive. I’d like to see the BTSA data, and then I would want to know if anyone else is replicating the effort. If it works, why is turnover so high in California and elsewhere? It’s usually because there are beneficiaries because if something is a lose-lose-lose proposition, it generally goes away.


      • You might contact The New Teacher Project at U C Santa Cruz for their research data.


      • Turnover is so high in CA because, according to EdSource, CA has among the highest student to teacher/counselor/librarian/administrator ratios in the nation. Having a classroom of 35 – 45 students (yes, 45 in LAUSD secondary classrooms) who face severe poverty and trauma makes it challenging. Many teachers have over 200 students each day.

        Here’s one blogger’s take from Los Angeles on why turnover is so high. I’d also recommend reading her blog for a great perspective on teaching. She just got nominated for an LA Press Club award for her writing.


        Another entry that is somewhat related.


      • As someone who went through a horrible BTSA experience, I can tell you it is not universally a positive experience. When the program began and was voluntary (10 yrs ago now) I know it was generally practical, hands-on, and supportive for new teachers. Once it became mandatory in order to clear your credential, it became a cattle call of checking off lists and bureaucratic paperwork. Also many people do not know this, but “support providers” (seasoned teachers who supposed are to guide the new teaches) actually receive a handsome stipend for being an SP to 1-3 teachers. It’s far more than a mentor teacher gets for working with a student teacher (at most gets about $200, but often nothing). I had an SP who did absolutely nothing and was paid thousands of dollars for technically taking on 3 new teachers. We were assigned to him and had no say in the matter. He made no bones about the fact that he did it for the money. He’d fall asleep at BTSA meetings (or in the middle of observing me teach!) He was openly abusive to students. But the admin and district knew these things and he had no repercussions, whereas I was laid off for reasons that still make no sense based on my evaluations, yet still make me feel like a failure. I also taught AVID for those 2 years, which is a very intensive mentoring program. I was ripped away from those kids from low income families with whom I’d worked very hard to foster close relationships and would have continued to teach through the rest of their high school careers. My SP died near the end of my 2nd year of teaching (very unexpectedly) and the district refused to give me any extra time to complete my work and his portion since he had not done it. It was a nightmare after I had worked so hard to become a good teacher and had a fabulous, supportive mentor teacher.

        Back to your original question, I do see your argument for connecting teacher turn over and credential programs, but I think it works in tandem with school districts and schools who always know that when they lay off new teachers, there is a pipeline flooded with newer, cheaper teachers from credential programs. I know I was let go due to budget constraints when they could not (or would not) let more seasoned teachers go. I doubt it was a coincidence that I was the most expensive new teacher since I had done some graduate work. Just like students need cultural diversity among their teachers, they also need a mix of new teachers who have the energy and enthusiasm of being younger and more willing to try new things combined with more seasoned teachers who have the experience and tried and true methods. The road to school budgets in Calif is littered with the broken dreams of teachers who weren’t able to complete BTSA before being laid off, then weren’t able to get a contract position, and now have no credential, so they can no longer teach. I am one of them, but I am not alone. This turnover creates terrible instability for students and makes them very jaded about the education system. The older ones can see what is going on and that teachers are not valued. I’d love it if you’d do a report on this, because people have no idea how the system is chewing up and spitting out teachers who work so hard for their students only to be stabbed in the back. I wrote more about my experience here: https://medium.com/this-happened-to-me/one-way-to-end-up-on-snap-bc8fb1284f8f


  11. I believe you have arrived at the wrong answer because you asked the wrong question. I think you need to ask how the people who have been trashing and demoralizing veteran teachers and deprofessionalizing the field benefit from having fewer career teachers. Follow the money…


  12. First look at what is motivating career teachers to leave the public schools, including ever increasing regulations for public education, such as federal demands for VAM and Common Core while simultaneously calling for the expansion of deregulated charter schools.

    It looks like you have benefitted from that, John: http://pando.com/2014/06/05/revealed-gates-foundation-financed-pbs-education-programming-which-promoted-microsofts-interests/


    • This is the relevant passage from the long article: “And the Gates Foundation hasn’t just supported Teaching Channel’s education-focused videos, either. It has also supported a PBS documentary called “Generation XY: Teenagers in the New Millennium” with a $50,000 grant made to the Filmmakers Collaborative in February 1999; the “production of reports on Washington DC and New Orleans school districts for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” with a $308,000 grant to Learning Matters in November 2007; “reporting on national education issues and the development of video and digital content for broadcast and online distribution” with a $525,048 grant to Learning Matters in July 2009; the “completion of a film about the revitalization and recovery of New Orleans, including the public education system, after Hurricane Katrina” with a $20,000 grant to Learning Matters in November 2012; and further “reporting on the Common Core State Standards” with a $25,000 grant to Learning Matters in October 2013.”
      The two large grants were in support of our serial coverage of Michelle Rhee in DC and Paul Vallas in New Orleans, unrelated to the Common Core and made (and spent) well before the CCSS were an issue.
      The two small amounts, $20,000 and $25,000, were actually contracts, not grants, made from a discretionary fund to help us with post-production costs for the New Orleans film and for general education coverage, which I agreed could be identified as “Common Core State Standards” because we were certain to cover that issue at some point.
      At no point in the relationship has anyone from the Gates Foundation EVER attempted to steer, influence or otherwise shape our reporting. Regarding the two small contracts, I had one short phone conversation about each, as I recall.
      I have had foundations attempt to influence coverage and even turned down a significant grant of over $300,000 at one point in my career. Much earlier, when I was at NPR, I returned a grant to a federal agency when its leader went over the line with ‘suggestions’ for how we should report stories.
      Keeping a non-profit above water and maintaining a reputation for integrity is always a challenge, more so today because those with money have become more ideological (which is their right, of course).
      Ambassador Walter Annenberg and Leonore Annenberg, his wife, used to provide generous general support with the message “Go cover K-12 education to the best of your ability,” or words to that effect. I miss those days….


      • Well, John, maybe the Gates Foundation did not ask about the direction you would take or specifically tell you to present a positive spin on privatization and charter schools because you already had a long history of being highly critical of public education and supportive of corporate “reformers,” including what looked like a lot of fawning over MIchelle Rhee –until your sudden change of heart over the testing debacle.

        You didn’t need to be vetted any more than high profile Libertarians need to be vetted to appear on FoxNews. So, without even asking, I think Gates got the goods he wanted from you, since you characterized the privatization of the entire New Orleans school district as a “Rebirth,” overlooked how John White capitalizes on his power to manipulate cut scores in order to make charter schools appear to be more successful than they really are, and you have given NOLA your own C rating.

        I’d say Gates got a lot of bang for the buck from investing in your “journalism,” and I suspect there may be many more grants and “contracts” from them in the future for you.


      • Victorino,
        i see that your mind seems to be made up, but, eternal optimist that I am, let me share some facts.
        1, we asked Gates, Broad, Wallace and Annenberg for support as we were beginning the coverage. No fawning at that point for Gates to rely on.
        2. I challenge you to look back on the 12 reports and cite evidence of our ‘fawning’ over Rhee. It was balanced, but I do wish we had been more skeptical about her remarkable results. We questioned her methods, or rather we aired her critics. We aired that firing scene; it was others who took it as evidence of her ‘courage’ et cetera, not us.
        3. Regarding New Orleans and ‘Rebirth,’ I reported on the schools there before Katrina, and that was the worst school system I think I have ever seen. Anyone who could afford to escape public schools did. It was an F- system, and today it is a C-, and that means that a lot of kids are getting a better chance. If you have seen “Rebirth,” you know that it is quite critical of what has taken place. If you happened to see me on the NewsHour last night, you heard my analysis of what I believe the City has to do now to get above a C- system of schools.


      • OK, John, Maybe I missed it.

        Before erasure-gate-DC, exactly when did you ask Michelle Rhee some really hard hitting questions, like about her own track record as a teacher, including about when she put tape on the mouths of her entire 2nd grade class to keep them quiet? (I knew a first year teacher who was fired for doing that –and rightly so, I believe.)

        Did you ever ask Rhee about substantiating her claim that she raised test scores from “90% below the 13th percentile to 90% above the 90th percentile”? (Or did you try to hunt down those records, as well as her co-teacher and principal?)

        Did you ever ask Rhee about what made her qualified to be a leader of teachers, as chancellor of a school district, when she admitted that she failed as a classroom teacher herself, seemed to have to teach on a team with another teacher in order to find a measure of success in the classroom, and had never even led a school before? Did you ask her if she would fire teachers who tape the mouths of children or if test scores matter more to her?

        Even after you became aware of erasure-gate-DC, why did you not ask about the issues GF Brandenburg raised and pose questions to Rhee similar to what he mentioned here? http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/?s=rhee+harlem+park&submit=Search

        As for NOLA, I think you are looking at the privatization of public education through rose colored glasses. Do you want to see all districts become privatized like NOLA? Who will educate the high needs students that charters often counsel out and expel? Districts can’t afford to support and adequately provide resources for a two tiered system of education.

        Do you not care about the spread of vouchers for private schools, including in LA, many of which are religious and teach creationism?

        Have you no concerns about how non-educator billionaires are driving education policies in this country?

        Don;t you care that Milton Friedman’s neoliberal policies have been turning our country into a highly stratified, segregated nation, like Chile –which is now taking steps to restore public education there?

        Do you have no concerns about the demise of public education here?


      • When Rhee said that “collaboration and consensus-building quite frankly are way overrated in my mind,” it would have been an opportune time for reporters like John to ask her if that’s what she thought about her team-teaching experience, too.


      • John and I have worked on several projects including but not limited to his TV program. I’ve also been involved with inner city public schools as a parent, teacher, and local PTA resident.

        John Merrow is in my view the most informed, accurate, nuanced person working on education issues for tv in the US. He has questioned and challenged a variety of mistakes in the charter world, going back almost 20 years…while at the same time describing some successes.

        He has pushed hard against use of standardized tests as the major source of info about the school.

        I don’t think Merrow represents corporations, unions, districts, or anyone else. I think he does a great job of representing the viewer…and pushing hard to find information that the viewer will find useful.

        John and I have disagreed vigorously from time to time. But overall, I think he is very fair and has a lot of integrity.


      • Sorry, Joe, but your testimonial carries no weight for those of us who know that you have accepted funding from right-wing billionaires, like the Bradley and Walton foundations, which promote privatizing public education.


      • Actually, I’m promoting more empowerment of low & moderate income families. Whether it’s through more strong options in district public schools or through charters.
        Here’s a link to a column I recently wrote with the first African American to be elected to the ST. Paul City Council, and former Mn Human Rights Commissioner.

        Other than attacking people, what are you doing to help,


      • I would expect nothing less from you than a toot-your-own-horn and blame others red herring, aimed at a defender of public education, Joe.

        I defend public schools from profiteers, faux progressives and right-wing ideologues who are privatizing education at alarming rates. I defend public services from those who refuse to learn from the free-market neoliberal policy mistakes that have been made both here and abroad, to the detriment of middle and lower income people.

        I fight for addressing poverty by providing jobs with livable wages and supporting labor unions. I fight for more options and resources within public school systems. And I fight for empowering teachers, parents and students in neighborhood public schools, instead of allowing unaccountable foundation leaders to dictate policies and unregulated corporations, entrepreneurs and carpet baggers, with phony magical elixirs, to raid our public coffers.

        I am a concerned citizen. I have never belonged to a union or taken money from the plutocrats that now rule this country –and who erroneously lead people to believe that eliminating union protections and removing democracy from education are beneficial to commoners. My eyes are wide open to the scams and I am committed to revealing and fighting against them. I am the working poor. I am today’s America.


      • I am the working poor –facing the possibility of homelessness for the fourth time in as many years, behind in my rent and utilities and trying to make $60 stretch to cover my food bill for the entire month– and I don’t qualify for any government assistance. But, if I had a dollar for everyone who promoted charter schools for other people’s children and chose to send their own kids elsewhere, I’m pretty sure I’d be rolling in dough.


  13. This is an interesting hypothesis. There are two sides of this:

    1) To what extent is there a clear set of links between turnover/attrition and undergraduate education enrollments?

    2) In the broader environment in which colleges of education sit, how significant is this potential net benefit?

    On 1, it’s fair to say that colleges of education benefit whenever there is the perception that there are plenty of good jobs for graduates, and that the particular college in question is a good place to be a student. You suppose that higher turnover is a major factor in that perception, and more specifically that higher turnover and attrition would rationally lead students to believe that there are plenty of good jobs out there for them.

    I’m not sure there is either that positive link between churn and enrollment (for many, churn would indicate poor working conditions in a field) or that prospective education majors weigh job prospects using the same data you think about. Think for a bit about what you presented on Illinois: Illinois’s colleges and universities graduate so many education majors that you would need about 35% turnover in the state’s K-12 schools to employ every one of them. Is this a sign that teaching is so great a field that students in the Midwest and Northeast are willing to buck the odds and go into education?

    I think something else is at play: undergraduates go into fields that interest them or where they could imagine themselves working after graduation. In some cases, significant adults can influence those choices (e.g., a relative warning them against a field because of recent events), but that’s one of many sources of influence on choice of majors. If undergraduates responded “rationally” to job prospects, you’d see a much closer fit of majors to jobs than what happens.

    (Side note: If you look at Ben Schmidt’s wonderful display of changing majors over time — http://benschmidt.org/Degrees/ — you can click different curriculum areas on/off to show two important things: education has stayed fairly steady as a proportion of graduates since the mid-80s, and business majors grew dramatically in the 15 years after 1970, as education was declining. Think a bit on that relationship and magnitude in relationship to the claim being made here about student choices.)

    On #2, I think the broader environment works against “churn” as a significant influence on colleges of education. First, apparently education faculty have the Worst Class Consciousness Ever in this regard, unless you can find more than a handful who would praise teacher churn. More broadly, the bulk of colleges of education (at comprehensive public four-year colleges/universities) often face more significant structural pressures — labor-market issues are more immediate (such as the hiring freezes/layoffs in the past 7 years), and long-term issues tend to be demographic — the aging of the baby boom, behind the dynamics you mention above, clearly swamp the effects of differential turnover.


  14. I agree with Sherman above. If you look at the push to rate colleges of education in places like Indiana, and the criticism and funding changes that go along with that, there is a clear disincentive for colleges to make their alumni lives difficult beyond the simple fact of how much those alumni will financially support the university. Indiana this year published the evaluations of its teachers by colleges of education, so this scrutiny of colleges of education has already begun. It also doesn’t make sense for students to take a traditional college route, which requires the most education and thus the most money spent if they are just going to be making a couple years worth of salary out of it, thus another disincentive. This supports alternative programs like Teach for America, so if you are speaking about alternative programs then you have a point. Another beneficiary are private schools and charters, because by blaming teachers in public schools for problems beyond the teachers control, you increase the incentive to leave for schools that are composed of only students with engaged parents and that have flexibility over who they kick out and in the case of private schools let in. In fact when >57% of teachers in Knox county in Indiana either retired or contracts were not renewed this week, a big reason cited in addition to pension changes was teacher evaluations, which due to the disparate results in it is clearly flawed by any measure (South Bend Community Schools had no Highly Effect, Needs Improvement, or N/A teachers for example which were 3 of the 5 categories despite being one of the largest districts in Indiana).

    School boards benefit financially from having older veterans leave, but they are not actively trying to kick them out. First of all, they are the ones that usually have the most power in the unions and thus are the ones most likely to put up the most fight (as happened when Griffith Federation of Teachers in Indiana sued over 6 veteran teachers being forced out including the head of the union). Younger teachers just leave. Second, they appreciate the veteran leadership (they know the ropes of the system) and experience (even though data indicates it does not by itself justify the large differences in salary between experience). Third, it is getting more and more difficult and costly to replace teachers in the uncertain chaos that is education in this country at the moment and the local criticism (which makes it ways to school boards) and accountability punishments that come from having to hire weaker candidates or long-term subs makes kicking out veterans an unacceptable strategy.

    The ones who benefit the least from this situation is society in general but specifically are the taxpayers, who get less bang for their buck when good teachers are lost; the state and federal government, which provides financial support to college students that is at least partially wasted when they leave the career so early; and the teachers themselves obviously who waste time and money on college degrees that they are underpaid for then have to leave having seemingly wasted a lot of career development time there as well and likely have their employment history reputation damaged as well especially with the new crop of teacher evaluations. It is important to note that while state and local governments are hindered by teacher churn, individual politicians are benefited by campaign contributions from those that benefit from destroying the public school system such as charter schools and private schools. Also, benefiting are the elites in the country who by hindering the progress of the lower classes lower the competition for their jobs thus increasing the elite’s wages and limiting the power of the lower classes making them more easily exploitable and retaining wealth that they may have inherited from the immoral dealings of the past (see Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations from this month’s The Atlantic that has been causing a lot of buzz online)


  15. I recently received this personal communication from a new teacher who does not want to be identified, for obvious reasons. I respect that and agreed to post his words:

    ‘I recently graduated from a teaching credential program in California. This particular program mints about 10% of new teachers in California. I would agree with John’s basic assertion that teacher preparation programs benefit from turning out ill-equipped teachers. Having an insider’s view of the program I would like to share a few facts about my experience getting a credential followed by a few conclusions.


    The credential program requires 48 semester units for a standard multiple subject credential. That’s more than a lot of MA or MS programs.

    Credential candidates complete a 60-100 page paper called PACT (Performance Assessment for California Teachers) that covers theory and practice.

    Credential candidates spend two semesters as student teachers in public school classrooms.

    Credential candidates pass a myriad of acronymed assessments including the CBEST, CSET and RICA

    Check, check, check… I am now a teacher. I voluntarily went into teaching as a second career and was willing to take on the significant drop in salary to work with students. I mention this because I want to put the conclusions below in the context of a 40-year-old professional that has had some life experience and work experience.


    The quality of my education in the credential program was dismal. I had just two classes that were lead by professors who genuinely added value to my education as a future teacher. The vast majority of other professors were simply collecting a paycheck to add to their own teacher retirement income. More than a few were truly terrible educators and would conduct class with little to no preparation (I brought one case to the attention of a dean; he said his hands were tied due to the union).

    The upside to a dismal credential program is it was possible to work full time with a full class load, even when student teaching. The secret was to just buy narration software because papers were graded primarily on word count, not content. My advisor for student teaching actually told me that “I have a check list and as you turn in papers I check them off and put them in this folder”.

    The program did absolutely nothing to prepare or even discuss BTSA Induction (in California new teachers have to jump through a few more hoops to “clear” their credential). Our class literally graduated with zero knowledge of the process.

    There is literally almost no bar to jump over to get into the credential program. You can have a terrible GPA and still get in, just pass the CBEST. They will take anyone with a BA. One of the credential candidates’ laptop had the phrase “I need a blunt and a fuck” on their desktop in about 60 point font. We had a lot of mandatory coaching on “professional appearance and behavior” The idea that you would already have exhibit professional behavior standards as a prerequisite to the program does not exist.

    My guess is that the teacher preparation program in past decades had fewer total course units and fewer acronymed tests to pass and the quality of teachers was better. What I think has happened is that somewhere we forgot that you cannot teach someone to be a teacher who is not already a teacher at heart. The truth as I see it is that the great teachers I had growing up were already trained as children by their moms and their own elementary and high school experiences. Adding more units and more requirements every year to a teaching credential program will never increase teacher quality.

    If we simply measured character, perhaps by ranking people applying to the credential program by both the quality and quantity of their personal and professional references, then we would see a drastic increase in the quality of teachers we produce every year and those are the kind of teachers who stick around year after year. This would reduce the number of teachers applying to the programs, and those programs would be forced to shrink and graduate fewer teachers. That would trigger higher starting salaries for teachers, which would in turn attract more quality people to the profession.”


    • I agree with this. I was briefly in a MEd Secondary Math program. The theory courses were a joke (i.e., I didn’t have to prepare much for class, and churned out what I believed to be subpar work, that received high marks), and the clinical courses were unguided, with no rubric to assist in assessing what we were supposed to be learning. And this was the graduate level. Much more thought was given to placement, school security requirements, and how hours were recorded (had to turn in a standard time-sheet log, with the classroom teacher’s signature indicating I was present). I ultimately switched to the MA, ed policy program, so I could actually be thoughtful about improving education in a way that doesn’t lay problems at one particular group, particularly parents.


    • I must make note that this is one person’s experience with a master’s degree program. I found my classes in a private school that in Indiana hosts bachelor’s degrees in a combined education and content program to have been high quality. The classes in Child Psychology, Classroom and Discipline Management, Educational Law, and Exceptional Children were particularly beneficial. In fact, as flawed as Indiana’s evaluation system is, it still points to some colleges that are good at education training. Look up “Teacher ratings find some colleges prep better than others” on The Statehouse File (subscription service) or look up the actual results directly. It has Franklin College (also a private college in the state) and IU East producing the most highly rated teachers. In other words, traditional institutions with reputations on the line tend to produce well prepared graduates and don’t benefit from the turnover, but those without those reputations to lose tend to mass produce them and do have something to benefit from high turnover.

      I must also note one other group that benefits from high turnover. The designers of teachers VAM systems that help tor drive teachers quitting and layoffs. In Ohio, their Department of Education does not even have a full model of the mathematical method used; only SAS Analytics based in North Carolina has that.


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