More on retaining the good ones
Posted on Wed, Feb. 15, 2006
Higher pay no longer enough to make new teachers stay
By Juliet Williams
SACRAMENTO - A moderate salary raise for a new teacher boosts the chances they'll stay in the profession, but mentoring programs and training are even more effective, according to a report to be released today.
(Thanks, Angela, for the link.)
The Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program, sponsored by the (California) Commission on Teacher Credentialing, is credited in this study with increasing teacher retention by 26%, more than half again what a $4K raise did (17%).
Commission Director Mike McKibbon says, "It makes an enormous difference in setting up the first two years as place to learn and grow and get better, rather than the way we used to do it, which was kind of a rite of passage."
When I started, back before everyone and his brother could claim grandparents who walked upright, the first couple years were where you either sank or learned to swim, and what McKibbon refers to as a "rite of passage" meant that you were thrown to the wolves that no one else wanted and either survived by developing your skills or were devoured.
That worked for many of us: the majority of the people I entered the profession with are still at it, or, like me, retired after years of productive service. Some didn't make it, though: there's the one who decided to run a string of snack machines, another who went to wait tables, another who used a math background to move into accounting, yet another who became a marriage counselor.
A mentoring and support program of the sort discussed here might, might, have kept one or two of those in education. That sort of program, though, could certainly have helped me hit my stride earlier. The "rite of passage" process left me feeling as if I had been abandoned to my own devices, when it would have made far more sense to have someone show me some of the already-invented wheels that might have fit the rig I was driving. As it is, I feel as though it took closer to five years for me to come to my senses and look outside myself for answers, and I don't honestly believe there was ever much support from above for that, either (consider that I had to get "sick" and pay for it myself to go to the NCTE convention and indulge myself in workshops that were actually worthwhile...).
Yes, I'm entirely in favor of paying all teachers more. If we start doing that, I'll get irritated that I can't reap the benefits anymore, but we'll keep more good teachers in the classroom longer (and maybe avoid some of this sort of conversation). But even more, I'm in favor of support and mentoring that brings earlier success to beginning teachers. The difference between a veteran and a novice doesn't have to loom as large as it does.