This is a crucial moment in American education. Across the country, stories about the teacher shortage crisis continue to flood the news (”Don’t use short cuts to solve teacher shortage,” Sept. 14). The pandemic exacerbated the long-standing challenges teachers face, resulting in many educators feeling that teaching is no longer sustainable or rewarding. The ramifications will have lasting impacts on our education system and future generations. Right now, the state of Maryland isn’t producing enough teachers to meet its school districts’ needs. While staffing shortages remain localized, teacher recruitment is down across the board. So, what can be done? If we want to be able to staff our schools effectively, it’s critical that we focus on keeping the teachers we’ve got.
The Fund for Educational Excellence’ recent brief, “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Staving Off a Teacher Shortage in Baltimore City Public Schools,” focuses on teacher retention and burnout through the experiences of Baltimore City Public School teachers. In a survey conducted at the end of last school year, 427 educators across 132 schools shared with us what motivates them to stay, what drives them to leave and what would make them more satisfied in their teaching jobs. The biggest factors driving teacher satisfaction are their students, competitive compensation and supportive school leadership. Poor school leadership and unaddressed student behavior threaten to push teachers out, however.
The challenge most frequently cited by teachers is administrative workload — district-required data collection, assessments and reports that teachers are responsible for outside of classroom time — much of which is duplicative and mandated at inopportune times during the school year. For example, in the last couple of years, teachers have been asked to provide additional extensive student data to the central office and create individual student learning plans for each of their students. Frustrated teachers told us that they have not seen discernible changes made for students’ benefit as a result. The added work that has been piled onto teachers’ plates without additional time allotted to complete it is a huge part of why teachers are feeling so burned out.
While this is a major challenge, it is one that the city school system has the ability to address. By releasing this first installment of our ongoing research now, the intention is to urge Baltimore City Public Schools to take action this school year. If we want to ensure future city students have access to an excellent and equitable education, we must prioritize teacher retention. That means listening to what teachers have to say and collaborating with them to develop and implement solutions that directly address the issues they tell us they are facing.
— Corrie Schoenberg, Kwane Wyatt and Ruth Farfel, Baltimore
The writers are employed by the Fund for Educational Excellence.
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