Why is Kentucky Losing New Teachers?

The Prichard Blog poses this question in light of some startling data from the Kentucky Board of Education:

For every 100 teachers who were new hires of the 2009-10 school year:

  • 18 were out of Kentucky teaching by the next year
  • 12 more were gone by the year after that
  • 7  were teaching in a different district by their second year
  • 7  were in the same district, but at a different school
  • 56 were still at their original schools

That means after two years, 30% of teachers who start teaching in Kentucky no longer teach in Kentucky. Perhaps they leave teaching altogether or perhaps they just move out of state. It also shows that after two years, only 1 out of 2 new teachers hired are still teaching at the same school.

As Prichard notes, this raises some important questions. Certainly, this type of turnover is both expensive and challenging for school districts.

But, what can be done?

One possible solution is a new teacher mentoring program. Yes, Kentucky has KTIP, but perhaps a program that goes deeper and does more to support new teachers is in order. Investing in early career teaching matters:

It is absolutely imperative that early career teachers receive adequate support and assistance so they develop into excellent teachers.  It’s also critical that those teachers are encouraged to stay in the field.  High teacher turnover costs districts (and taxpayers) money and deprives students of the valuable benefits of strong, stable teachers.  One proven method of retaining new teachers that also results in improved student learning is early career mentoring.  Research at the New Teacher Center suggests that placing a trained mentor with a new teacher in the first two years of teaching both improves teacher retention and shows a positive impact on student learning.

Additionally, adopting a more comprehensive support system — perhaps within the PGES framework, could help. Combining the new evaluation system with a Peer Assistance and Review program could also bolster the support new teachers receive in their early career development:

This Harvard Guide looks at seven PAR programs and discusses their impact. The bottom line is that the programs are generally well-received by both teachers and administrators and demonstrate a level of effectiveness at both preparing new teachers and improving veteran teachers.

Here are a few key takeaways:

Districts with PAR programs say that, although the program can be expensive, it has many important benefits. PAR’s mentoring component helps beginning teachers succeed and, thus, increases retention. PAR also makes it possible to help ineffective tenured teachers improve or to dismiss them without undue delay and cost because of the program’s clear assessment process and the labor-management collaboration that underpins it. This process of selective retention can lead to a stronger teaching force and promote an organizational culture focused on sound teaching practice. Union leaders say that the program professionalizes teaching by making teachers responsible for mentoring and evaluating their peers. With its specialized roles for Consulting Teachers (CTs), PAR also has the potential to differentiate the work and career opportunities of teachers.

When nearly one out of every three new teachers hired in Kentucky leaves the profession after two years, something needs to be done. Certainly, no one wants to keep people in a profession for which they are not well-suited. But high turnover is not desirable for districts, for students, and for taxpayers. Certainly, many of those who chose teaching sincerely want to do the job and have the ability to do it well.

Kentucky would do well to find a way to better support early career teachers and improve their development as professionals.

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