A Teacher Induction, Retention and Advancement Pilot Program will be established for specified first-year teachers. Also, the maximum state matching stipend for teachers who hold National Board Certification increases from $2,000 to $4,000.
A Teacher Induction, Retention and Advancement Pilot Program will be established for specified first-year teachers. Also, the maximum state matching stipend for teachers who hold National Board Certification increases from $2,000 to $4,000. (Photo by: Nate Pesce / Patuxent Publishing)

Excellent school teachers are made, not born. That's the lesson of several recent studies examining the degree to which classroom experience improves teacher quality. While the conventional wisdom has long been that teacher quality is fixed after an initial make-or-break period of a few years, researchers are now understanding that teacher quality improves with every year of experience and should be recognized. This echoes sentiments long expressed by teachers themselves.

It's a particularly important lesson in Maryland right now, where teacher attrition is a well-documented problem. In each of the last five school years, Maryland public school teachers have left the school system at an annual rate of 5.5 percent to 7 percent each year, with the largest number of departures coming from the category of teachers with less than 5 years of experience.

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Teachers who leave the profession after just a few years take with them tens of thousands of dollars of public investment in teacher quality. The cost of teacher attrition per year in just Baltimore City and Prince George's County was estimated in 2007 by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future to be more than $19 million and $23 million respectively, indicating the state-wide cost today may well be above $100 million per year. Teacher attrition disproportionately affects low-income and minority school districts in Maryland, as is true nationwide, making this issue central to the education equity conversation.

As Maryland's Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education Commission, known popularly as the Kirwan Commission, winds down over the next few months, much attention will be paid to the commission's recommendations on funding — a hefty $2.9 billion increase has already been recommended by consultants — and the formula for determining allocation of funds, as well as the responsibility to pay them between state and local jurisdictions. This attention is certainly justified. However, other reforms from Kirwan, like those that should be made in teacher recruitment, development and retention, which require little funding increase, could have just as much if not more impact over the long run. Kirwan is providing an opportunity to introduce sweeping changes to the teaching profession in Maryland, including changes that will address the attrition problem.

Baltimore area schools work to hang on to new teachers

Kristyn Ferguson is looking forward to the start of the school year, but she's worried. She is a 2013 college graduate who has never taught in a public school. She's unsure what to expect, and — perhaps more importantly — she's uncertain about exactly what is expected of her.

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI), a research organization connected to Stanford University, publishes reports and interactive tools related to teacher attrition and other professional issues. Maryland, accustomed to being among the best in national public-school rankings, ranks in the lowest quintile in a number of rankings that LPI has found help us to understand why some states develop teacher shortages. Maryland is in the worst quintile for working conditions, teacher qualifications (for high numbers of inexperienced and uncertain teachers) and for concentration of both uncertified and inexperienced teachers in high-vs.low-minority schools.

Kirwan received a list of nine "building block" recommendations from the National Commission on Excellence in Education, several of which address the teaching profession. The April Kirwan hearing focused on how Maryland can attract top-quality teachers to fill every position. In my view, this must include a specific focus on ensuring that any reforms lead to better teacher retention.

Harvard's Project on the Next Generation of Teachers found that three-core proficiencies beyond early-career mentorship lead to teacher satisfaction and retention: 1) ample time to collaborate with other faculty and staff, 2) strong and supportive principals, and 3) a common vision that's shared and executed by staff. Long-time teachers emphasize that local decision-making, collaboration and the opportunity to work together on in-house professional development are crucial steps to creating a more supportive and successful environment for teachers.

Teacher pay and retention, pools, libraries dominate Harford virtual town hall budget session

Harford County faces a severe shortage of highly qualified teachers that will only get worse if more funding is not provided to the public school system, warned several participants in County Executive Barry Glassman's virtual town hall budget meeting Thursday night.

This vision of a collaborative environment with ample time for mentorship and development stands in contrast to the clock-punching stress new teachers in Maryland schools face today. To meet the goal of innovative and excellent 21st education, we must ensure that we follow through on the opportunity with Kirwan to make reforms to teacher recruitment, training and working conditions in line with this vision. We can measure our success in part through the metrics of teacher attrition and retention.

Rob Johnson is director of purchasing and supply services for Prince George's County Public Schools and a former associate general counsel for Baltimore City Public Schools. His email is robjohnsonjr81@gmail.com.

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