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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leaky Bucket

The current teacher supply in America has been compared to a leaky bucket. That is, every fall, new recruits pour in, while in the spring, many teachers pour out for early retirement or look for higher paying careers and more congenial working conditions. In fact, approximately one-third of our nation’s teachers leave the profession within their first three years of teaching, while almost one-half leave within five years.

Teaching is very tough work. If you doubt it, visit our schools and see for yourself. Maybe you will understand why we are experiencing crisis-level teacher turnover. Some critics conclude that public education has failed. Perhaps the question should not be “Has public education failed?’ but rather “Have we as citizens failed public education?”

The reality is we fail when we do not hold our elected officials accountable. According to their campaign ads, they have promised to support a quality public education for all children, but have not delivered.

Therefore, the first step to ensuring a quality public education for every student is to focus our attention on those elected public servants who are committed to funding academic excellence in public education. We need those public servants to keep true their promises of ensuring that every public school is as good as our best public schools.

Next, we must aggressively recruit intelligent, high quality teachers who know the subject matter to be taught and how to teach. Quality teachers are trained in how children learn and develop. They are mentored and prepared to make teaching their life-long profession and passion. The sooner we begin treating those teachers that have “earned their stripes” as respected professionals, the sooner we will attract and retain quality teachers.

Also, like other professionals, quality teachers need the opportunity to grow professionally, to ensure that their skills and knowledge are honed to become better practitioners. Consequently, our students will be the beneficiaries of the wisdom and insight gained by the devoted teachers who will work to leave no child behind.

Furthermore, before any elected body initiate any major education policy changes, it would be logical and wise to consult with the “front-line” professional teachers—because they know what works. Likewise, public officials need to divert their attention away from “things” and turn their attention to the task of adequately funding the effort to recruit and retain highly dedicated and quality professional teachers. The rhetoric must stop if we want the “leak in the bucket” to stop.

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