Where have all the teachers gone?
It is old news that teachers are not staying in the profession very long. What is new news is that the problem is worse in Maryland, the state with the highest median family income in the country. The Maryland State Department of Education reports that nearly half of new teachers who have completed between one and two years of teaching will leave the field by the beginning of the third year.
So, what is the difficulty?
First of all, Maryland is not very attractive for teachers. It ranks 46th in the country on a teacher attractiveness scale according to a report from the Learning Policy Institute. It is right down there with Mississippi and New Mexico, not a great place to be.
Is the issue money? Probably not. Compensation of Maryland teachers ranks 5th in the country, for its average starting salary of $43,235. The state is 7th in average overall salary of $66,482. And remember these numbers include high salary states such as Alaska with its very high cost of living.
The turnover rates hurt education. In Prince George’s County, one of the largest school districts in the state, 42.2% of its teachers have less than five years’ experience. Over all in the State, 29.7% of teachers have less than five years’ experience.
Teachers report the promise of support from administrators is seldom forthcoming. Others feel micro-managed. Gone are the days when a teacher closed the classroom door and did what she or he knew how to do best, teach children. Now there are pacing guides and standardized tests to measure what the kids have been taught rather than what they have learned.
More money is not necessarily the answer.
A few weeks ago, The Harbour School was selected as one of the Top Places to Work in Maryland. The project is administered by the Baltimore Sun newspaper but the winners are selected by a completely confidential survey of the organizations' employees. This was the 4th time in 5 years that The Harbour School was selected by its staff as a Top Place to Work. The school did not participate in the contest in year 2. Once nominated the group administering the contest for the Sunpaper surveys each employee through an email contact.
Of the 75 organizations selected by their employees several were small to medium private schools. There were also tech companies, real estate companies, health care groups, and accounting firms. What is notable by their absence was not a SINGLE public school system. Organizations are nominated by employees so any of the thousands of public school employees could have nominated their employer. None did.
I can’t speak for the other private schools but it would not surprise me if the situation was not similar. Salaries at The Harbour School are lower than those of the public schools. The tuition for non-public special education schools is set by the Maryland State Department of Education and it does not provide for equitable salaries with the public schools even though credential standards are identical. So it is not high paying salaries that make Harbour staff happy.
Staff at Harbour do not function in a labor/management model. People are committed to a common goal- the students. There is something to be learned here. People, including teachers, want to not just feel valued but BE valued. Maybe if that principle were demonstrated in our public schools all staff, teachers and administrators, would stay around longer.