Want to keep teachers? Get rid of summer break - Boston.com
Nationally, about half of all teachers leave within three years of starting to teach. As many as 80 percent of Teach for America teachers leave after year three, according to a recent study by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. A lot of talk in the current education debate focuses on how to attract the best and brightest to work in education. But the bigger issue is how to get talented and dedicated young people, who also have other options, to stay in education.
I teach fifth grade at a charter school in Boston. Many of my friends studied education, and almost all chose to work at charter schools or through Teach for America. There’s a simple reason for this. Teaching in a regular public school generally requires a master’s degree in education and certification tests. That means that you essentially have to be sure you want to teach. The time and money one would invest in a master’s program only makes sense if you’re committed to teaching for good.
So here’s the situation: Many young people with other employment options enter the world of education. We choose to work in the toughest neighborhoods, with underserved populations. We work long hours in high-stress environments, forgoing many basic amenities of other jobs (like the ability to get up and go to the bathroom, for example). We make personal connections with students and take our worries about them home with us along with papers to grade and lessons to prep. Then after two or three years, the vast majority of us leave the classroom.
One solution that’s been proposed for teacher retention is higher pay or bonuses. For money to actually make a difference in teacher quality and retention, salaries would have to be dramatically increased to the point where candidates who are getting pulled into finance and consulting jobs would instead opt for education. Personally, I certainly wouldn’t turn down extra money, but it also wouldn’t have a significant impact on my job satisfaction.