School’s Out Forever, for Teachers Who Burnout Early

Maryland schools are having difficulty retaining experienced teachers during their first few years in the profession.

Maryland’s education system may suffer from early career departures of its teachers, depleting the system of needed professional expertise, according to a recent article and report.

Anne Arundel County teacher Robin Beers is profiled by the Capital News Service as a teacher who felt she did not have the time or support to consistently succeed early in her career.

As reported by the Capital News Service,

Maryland schools are often touted as some of the best in the country, but beneath the surface, it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain experienced teachers during the first few years into the profession despite receiving relatively high pay among teachers nationwide.

The Maryland State Education Association makes the connection between retaining teachers and educational quality. As quoted by the Capital News Service,

“There is research that shows there is a link between teacher experience and the quality of teaching that goes on in the classroom,” said Adam Mendelson, spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union. “When there is a lot of turnover, it’s harder to establish relationships between teachers and students.”

For more information, see the full story, Md. works to retain qualified teachers.

Teacher Quality and School System Performance

Maryland’s Kirwan Commission recently heard a presentation that emphasized the importance of high-quality teachers to reaching international educational standards. Mark Tucker of The National Center on Education and the Economy urged the Commission to:

  • End the current “low-quality model” of “hiring cheap, poorly educated teachers” and “giving up on students early”
  • Get first rate teachers in front of every student and set very high expectations for all students, teachers.

The National Center on Education and the Economy’s report, Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems, explores the factor of teacher quality and professional development more fully. The report analyzes the way four high-performing systems (Shanghai, British Columbia, Singapore, and Hong Kong) provide professional learning to their teachers. From the press release,

While these systems are quite different, the key to all of them is that collaborative professional learning. . . is built into the daily lives of teachers and school leaders. This is reinforced by policies and school organizations that:

  • Free up time in the daily lives of teachers for collaborative professional learning
  • Create leadership roles for expert teachers who both develop other teachers and lead school improvement teams
  • Recognize and reward the development of teacher expertise
  • Enable teachers and school leaders to share responsibility for their own professional learning and that of their peers.

An article in The Atlantic, When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools, relates the frustrations of Finnish teachers who have relocated to teach in the American system. Kristiina Chartouni, a veteran Finnish educator who began teaching American high-school,  questions whether she will stay in the profession,

With only a couple months of teaching under her belt, Chartouni wonders whether she wants to remain in the teaching profession in America. “If you asked me now, my answer would be that most likely I would not continue in this career,” she admitted. “I am already looking into other options.”

Teacher Quality and Costs

At the December 8th meeting of the Kirwan Commission, Commissioners received the final report from consultants hired by the state to assess the adequacy of Maryland’s education system. That report noted that in case studies of 12 high performing and improving schools in Maryland,

Most schools took teacher quality very seriously. Indeed, when asked how the schools had produced their impressive results, several principals (and teachers) immediately said, “teacher talent.” These schools often partnered with local teacher training institutions and/or tried to hire only individuals who had student taught or otherwise had worked in the school in some capacity so their skills and work habits, and degree to which they fit into the school culture, were known.

Teacher and staff salaries drive education costs, often making up for more than half of school system budgets. The consultants’ report recommended a $2.9 million increase in education funding for Maryland schools, more than $1 million of which would come from county governments.

A recent New York Times article, It Turns Out Spending More Probably Does Improve Education, found that education spending does correlate to improved performance. Reporting on the results of a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study, the Times writes,

They found a consistent pattern: In the long run, over comparable time frames, states that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t. The size of the effect was significant. The changes bought at least twice as much achievement per dollar as a well-known experiment that decreased class sizes in the early grades.

The Times also quotes a charter school advocate questioning the idea of more funding without analysis of how the money is spent,

What the studies do not offer, notes Jennifer Alexander, chief executive of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, a group that backs charter schoolsand other overhauls, is robust information on the best use of the money. “How money is spent is equally important,” she said, “and I don’t think we have enough information about that from these studies.”

One of the factors that Maryland’s consultants considered in suggesting increased funding was the increased costs of the State’s new educator evaluation system. At the same time, most of the consultants’ report does not make a direct connection between funding and teacher quality or professional development.

Next Steps

Over the course of the next year, the Kirwan Commission will be reviewing the consultants’ report, looking at additional data, and developing final recommendations for legislative action.

For more information, see More Money, Same Problems in K-12 EducationMore Space for Ms. Frizzle, and Kirwan Commission meeting materials.