Why can’t Minnesota hold onto its teachers?

Yesterday in this space I provided two stories of inspiring teachers, fighting the odds and making a big difference in the lives of little kids.

Now the other shoe: Minnesota can’t hold onto its teachers.

MPR’S Solvejg Wastvedt reports that gains in hiring teachers of color are being undermined by the state’s problems in keeping teachers.

One of every four Minnesota teachers leaves the profession after just three years, a report from the Minnesota Department of Education says.

Salary is one reason, Wastvedt says. Another is it’s a competitive market for teachers. We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that using teachers as a public punching bag whenever education issues are discussed isn’t helping either.

“Districts won’t hold on to great new teachers if those teachers keep coming up short every month after paying for health insurance, housing, living expenses and their student loans,” a union president’s statement said that accompanied the report.

The white student population is shrinking and there’s a need for teachers who look like their students, particularly in areas such as special education, math, and chemistry.

Making the problem even worse is that fewer people want to be teachers, according to the Star Tribune. There’s been a 30-percent decline in the number of people entering teacher preparation programs.

Why do young teachers leave? One ex-teacher, commenting on the Star Tribune’s site, says it’s too hard to teach effectively.

I am a former teacher who left a job I loved because I couldn’t comply with multiple federal, state, and local district “professional improvement” initiatives that I was required to complete. The time-consuming extra work was fussy, repetitive and ultimately not that useful, because it took away so much time from actual teaching and lesson planning. After struggling for several years, I came to realize that I was being forced to choose between being an engaging, competent teacher and an uninspiring bureaucrat.

Almost all of the initiatives that teachers are required to complete these days result from an admirable desire to close the achievement gap between white children and children of color. Tragically, all of them are based upon the notion that the achievement gap is primarily caused by inadequate, and perhaps racist, teachers. It follows then, that schools can close the gap by “fixing” the teachers. There are a host of problems that create the achievement gap – I don’t need to enumerate them. The so-called “poor quality” of teaching is not high among them.

Another ex-teacher, whose last assignments were in the ’90s, suggests it’s no longer a profession to recommend.

The profession has been almost ruined by politicians, especially Conservatives, who are relentless in tearing down and belittling educators, public schools, and even the students themselves by failing to understanding that all students are not alike, nor do they have the same abilities or the same support system at home or from extended families.

Once you get past the usual DFL v. GOP foodfight in the comments section, there is a growing theme among the worthy commenters with experience to share. Teaching is not, they say, something to aspire too anymore.

I wouldn’t mind hearing from young teachers today whether that’s true, although I’m sure it will be difficult for them to find the time to comment here, particularly since they were off to work this morning before the rest of us finished our first cup of coffee.

Related: Noet, Owatonna Jr. High social studies teacher, nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year (Owatonna People’s Press)

  • MrE85

    I think the former teachers have given us some clues to the question in the headline. The next question might be: “How do we fix this?” or “Do we have the willingness to fix this?” I doubt the GOP-led legislature and Education Minnesota have much common ground to work with, even if both sides can see the problem of teacher retention.

  • MrE85

    I have worked at the exhibit area during the annual MEA conference for many years (we offer a scholarship for HS seniors). Many politicians visit or have booths of their own, but all are DFLers. Just once, I would like to see a Republican office-seeker buy a booth and answer questions and listen to teacher’s concerns.

  • Sam M

    I don’t think salary has much to do with it. I just reviewed my wife’s pay-scale structure and it’s pretty pretty nice.

  • Mike

    The quotes excerpted suggest that the problem is the politicization of education. The left has tried to make schools responsible for solving all the ills and inequalities of society. As for the right… well, it appears they just don’t like that book-learning much. It makes people question things like religion and nationalism. Either way, actual education seems to get de-prioritized.

    From the outside, it certainly appears there’s a whole cottage industry of consultants and bureaucrats who are always selling some sort of reform, milking the system in one way or another. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, the school boards have created sweetheart deals for superintendents, with lavish severance payments that the district (and taxpayers) can ill afford. Why is there no reform effort directed there? I’d love to read some reporting about the conflicts of interest between school board members and the people they hire and/or supervise.

    Just as the taxpayer always counts last in the ambitions of government bureaucrats and politicians, it appears so does the teacher (and the children) in the educational system.

    • Anna

      I was a school nurse nearly 20 years ago now in a small rural school district in Southeast Minnesota. I took care of the children at the parochial Catholic schools in the district.

      One school was part of a larger and more affluent church. The other was in a tiny town a few miles south surrounded by crop and dairy farms.

      The smaller school was a K-8. What was amazing that without all the “advantages” of the public school and the more affluent Catholic school, their students scored in the top 5% of students on standardized tests and state test scores. The textbooks were older and well worn but the teachers, despite the large gap in pay were dedicated to their students

      Computers 20 years ago were additional tools for supplementing the classroom lesson and many schools didn’t have them but the students learned the required subjects and excelled in higher education.

      For many school districts today, the lessons are learned strictly with online textbooks. For some schools the students provide their own laptops. For others they are purchased gradually by the district.

      Those that belong to the district can have locks on them to control access to websites like Facebook and private email. For the districts that have the students provide their own, it’s anybody’s guess and the teacher is reduced to policing students from the back of the classroom to make sure they stay on the correct website and on task.

      Google and other search engines have become the digital version of Cliff Notes and students would rather google the answers than actually read what is required.

      If the trend continues, the classroom teacher may end up like the retail clerks that are being replaced by robots and automation.

  • As an excercise, try to discuss being a teacher without mentioning: lefties, righties, DFL, and GOP. Just to see if you can do it.

    • MrE85

      I’ll bite. I think it is a demanding profession and I am in awe of those who not only manage, but excel like the teachers in yesterday’s post. That why when the request seems reasonable, I’m often willing to pay more to our schools, even though I have no children of my own.

      • Sam M

        I would second the demanding aspect. I spent a morning talking to classes of students about my profession (accounting). Although it was a great experience I was drained at the end of it and I told my wife that I will never begrudge her for the 3 months off in the summer… She’s earned it.

        • MrE85

          Hats off to her. I taught a couple classes to agriculture teachers on how to make biodiesel in a school lab. Showed me just how challenging that job can be.

      • Anna

        One of the main problems with U.S. schools is the hit or miss funding and where the money goes. For small rural districts, the constant struggle to keep levies high enough to support a quality school system is up against a brick wall of indifference to the need for periodic increases in the property tax. Much of the push back is from retired individuals who don’t have “skin” in the game meaning they don’t have children in the educational system.

        Once the school district declines, new residents no longer see the town as an attractive place to raise their families and it gradually snowballs from there until the town finally dies out.

        Teachers are not only under pressure to meet national standards and state requirements, they are also under pressure from parents who more times than not these days, are not involved with their child’s education or expect the teacher to do all the teaching and discipline.

        Since this last election cycle, I have experienced a subtle shift in student behavior with students being disrespectful and rude to administrators, teachers and their fellow students. They cannot delay gratification and do not respond to standard classroom discipline. It takes precious time away from instruction when the teacher has to spend countless minutes getting the students back on task.

        There is more arguing in the classroom and small disagreements increasingly devolve into violent arguments, requiring a halt to instruction to deal with student behavior.

        I teach across all grade levels and all subjects and three different school districts. At the end of a particularly difficult day, I was so thankful that I did not have to return to the same classroom on a daily basis. I prayed for the regular teacher that the good Lord would give her the patience she needed to deal with a classroom filled with unruly students.

        I do love teaching and when the day goes well, it is an absolute joy to work with the students and see that “light bulb” of understanding go on.

        No teacher is perfect and we all make mistakes. However, we make every effort to correct them and move forward. The challenges today are much greater having to compete with technology ( or the lack of it) and cellphones, the scourge of every middle and high school teacher.

        Parents out there who are reading this take a lesson. We are not your children’s parents. You are and teaching them respect for authority and proper manners are the most important skills you can give to your child.

        Look at the school work your children bring home on any given day and if you see issues, take it up politely and properly with the child’s teacher and don’t leap frog over them to an administrator. You need to give the teacher a chance to show you what your child is and isn’t doing to get a proper education.

        Public education is a team effort between teachers and parents. Attend your child’s scheduled parent-teacher conference. It’s your chance to talk one-on-one with the teacher and together make a plan to help your child get the best education possible.

    • Mike

      Acknowledging that some of the problems are political need not devolve into a debate about the virtues or shortcomings of either side. Given that we are discussing a public, taxpayer-funded system that’s directly subject to the whims of politics, it seems artificial to look at problems in isolation. The comments of the ex-teachers themselves point to the fact that making education a political football, which both sides have done in recent decades, is definitely part of the dysfunction.

  • dave

    IF (and that is a big IF) it was the teacher, please explain why some students thrive and achieve mastery of the material and some flunk…..under the same teacher.

    It is on the teacher to PRESENT the material. It is on the student to LEARN the material.

    It means choosing to review and study and do homework even when play and friends are more appealing.

    The achievement gap is a result of the effort gap.

    And yes, it takes more effort to learn when poor.

    After all, that is the definition of rich – life is easier – (organized quiet place to study, stable home, access to everything).

    • Sam M

      We should focus on making the effort more equal among students.

    • >>It is on the teacher to PRESENT the material. It is on the student to LEARN the material.<<

      Different students learn in different ways. If a teacher ONLY presents subject matter in only one way, the students that learn that way benefit the most.

      /Not sure if that made sense…

      • dave

        Perfect sense, but not the source of the achievement gap. Yes, a great teacher is more engaged and students actively participate in class. Yes, it helps to learn from someone just like yourself.

        Now I ask you, for each low-achieving student, which way would YOU bet to raise scores…….Improve the teacher or improve the home life???

        The whole system can keep firing & hiring teachers thinking the next will close the achievement gap, but that will not change real cause.

        • The home circumstances ARE, of course, a huge driver of achievement, I was just commenting on the “presentation of material” and that it CAN be an issue, albeit a minor one.

        • Sam M

          We need to improve home life. Helping the parents helps the students.

    • dave

      YES, it helps to have material presented in a way conducive to that individual student’s learning style. BUT with so many students per class, it just ain’t gonna happen that all styles are met.

      The effort needed to learn will always vary from student to student. I would struggle hard to learn music, math would be a breeze.

      The effort needed and the effort put forth is a function of the parents (or parent) checking on the child’s progress and talking with teachers and showing just how much the family values academic achievement.

      Human nature being the same all over, if the parent doesn’t care care, we are all going to slide on the effort…….but that will be true regardless of the teacher.

      ASK a teacher how many parents of A students show up for Parent-Teacher conferences and how many parents of failing students show up.

      • John Erving

        “YES, it helps to have material presented in a way conducive to that individual student’s learning style.”


        What SHOULD be the purpose of public education is to teach students of any age to LEARN, and learn in ways that are unfamiliar or foreign to the student.

        In other words, real learning occurs, not when instruction is adapted to the to the individual’s learning style, but when one learns to learn REGARDLESS of the instructional method.

        Having confidence & experience in one’s ability to learn regardless of the instructional method is infinitely more valuable than learning only when the instructional style fits one’s preferred learning style.

        • If you have a class of 30 students, it’s safe to say that one student’s “preferred method of learning” is going to match the teacher’s method of instruction.

          Is that person not engaged in “real learning”? They’re getting a lesser education?

          • John Erving

            ALL students are capable of learning to learn–it can be taught to ANY student.

            It’s not about “matching” learning styles to teaching methods, or advantages & disadvantages…NO student begins the educational process knowing how to learn…and as the process proceeds, one MUST adapt learning styles to master different content areas.

            Learning to learn is a CONSTANT evolution, made possible only by the ability to do so. There’s no “lesser” education, or that a student has an advantage. There’s no “matching”, for EVERY student can or should be challenged to learn in EVERY classroom.

            To expect or demand a myriad of instructional methods to accommodate 25 students in 7 different content areas throughout a school day is not only impractical, it would defeat what should be the goal the educational process.

          • I take it you’re a teacher. Can you describe your journey?

          • John Erving

            Ideas should stand or fall on their own.

            The author is irrelevant.

          • So you don’t have any pedagogical training or experience either in practice or research?

          • John Erving

            How do you arrive at that question based on what I’ve written?

            Please, read carefully.

          • The world is full of experts on the Internet, so it’s pretty easy. I’m legitimately curious for an answer, though.

          • John Erving

            I assure you that I’m no expert, internet or otherwise.

            I just have a deep interest in education, and how it is so susceptible to faddish movements. I come at it more from a research-driven view, than what entertains students.

          • rallysocks

            //ALL students are capable of learning to learn–it can be taught to ANY student.//

            But they all can’t be taught to learn using only one method.

          • John Erving

            Yes, they can if the goal of the method is to learn to learn.

          • John Erving

            Defining a “learning style” is problematic, let alone “diagnosing” a child’s preferred style. And children are largely unaware of their preferred “learning style.”

            Studies show the effort to match learning styles with instructional methods are largely ineffective, if not counterproductive.


          • rallysocks

            So…my DD daughter didn’t need anything else but the desire to learn to learn?

            Uh, no.

    • crystals

      I don’t think it’s an effort gap, I think it’s an opportunity gap.

      Sure, for some kids and families effort might be the biggest missing piece. But for the vast majority, I believe it’s a lack of access to adequate resources and supports. I have yet to meet a kid or parent who WANTS their kids to fail. We, as a society, need to help them succeed by understanding what they need and what they don’t. (What they don’t need: lectures from people who don’t know their lives.)

      • The challenge of parenthood and the challenge of teaching is very much the same, it sounds like: Getting kids motivated to do what you want them to do. The difference is kids spend more time with teachers than parents in a typical day.

        And parenthood is an incredibly difficult, heartbreaking, heartwarming job day in and day out. And that’s when you do it right.

      • dave

        Tell me more about the opportunity gap, please.

        I am thinking success is possible with enough effort to handle whatever the opportunities (resources) are IF the parents are involved.

        “Show me the pages you covered today, show me the homework you did, explain to me the material you just covered.” works regardless of what the parent knows about the subject.

        Review every day, every week, every chapter on your own and study the iffy parts & ask the teacher one-on-one about uncertain items; works wonders and takes no extra resources.

        Again, same teacher, books, schoolroom: there is no difference in the resources provided to the A or F student. Some students will need more effort on their part to overcome chaotic home life. All benefit with involved parents.

        I agree that society can address opportunities easier than individual effort. Please give me some examples of closing the opportunity gap. I am frankly at a loss at how to improve the effort gap.

        • rallysocks

          //explain to me the material you just covered.” works regardless of what the parent knows about the subject.//

          How does that help if the parent doesn’t understand the material and the kid has the wrong understanding of the material?

          • dave

            Just going over the material and knowing I can’t explain it leads me to realize I need to study more OR ask the teacher about it.

            There may be a wrong understanding, I am counting on most folks know when they are uncertain to get the student to dig in.

            Tests and asking will hopefully correct wrong understanding.

            But that would have occurred anyway. By explaining a subject the student has a chance to realize what he doesn’t know.

        • crystals

          There has been a lot written about the opportunity gap – I’m not sure what you’re asking for. It sounds as though we may just fundamentally disagree if you think success is possible only if parents are involved. My own experiences as a teacher and nearly 20 years working in education disprove that. Parental involvement is absolutely helpful, but there are children who thrive and succeed without parental engagement in academics – for lots of reasons. Schools and communities can and do step in to provide opportunities and support, and I don’t think children should be held back because of what their parents can and cannot provide.

  • Rob

    My guess is that Minnesota is not unique when to comes to teacher retention issues. Teachers as a whole are scapegoats and punching bags for the multidude of failures and shortcomings of public education. There is very little psychic reward. Teachers spend their days siloed off from their peers, and end up devoting most of their time to classroom management with a mix of indifferent/unappreciative students and students who are saddled with learning and social challenges that no wizard could rectify. But other than that, who wouldn’t want to be a teacher?

    • Sam M

      Not just shortcomings of public education but of our society as a whole. We ask them to fix a lot of problems in a little time and with even fewer resources.

      I’m a fiscal conservative but if we continue to demand our schools to fix societies problems I would say we open our wallets.

      FWIW I don’t think schools are the place to do that.

      • The link between poverty and difficulty in learning is pretty well established. At the same time, presumably, we all agree that education is the pathway to a better future and that we all benefit from the education of others.

        • John Erving

          “The link between poverty and difficulty in learning is pretty well established.”

          Not exactly.

          Poverty tends to be used as a proxy for other problems that come with lower socioeconomic status (SES), like crime, low parental literacy rates, and de facto segregation, housing uncertainty, illegitimacy, and single parent households–ANY of which is a better predictor of a lack of academic achievement.

          “Poverty” per se is not a good predictive factor of a lack of academic achievement.

  • Kayla

    As a young teacher with only four years of experience (two of which were spent abroad at an international school), I can sympathize with the teacher who said she felt she spent more time working on school initiatives than actually teaching. My first two years of teaching spent abroad were wonderful years of growth and learning as an educator. Upon returning to the States, I spent a few months in a struggling charter school that focused more on teaching what they wanted than actually teaching state standards. I am thoroughly convinced there are good charters out there, I just haven’t found one yet.

    After spending the rest of my third year bouncing around as a long term sub and working three other jobs to make ends meet, I finally have found a place to put down roots. The challenges of a teacher are many and the stresses of meeting state standards and keeping up with school initiatives are exhausting.

    The other thing I think that really impacts this problem is the salary. I know so many teachers who have to supplement their income by working a second job. I worked 60 hours a week this past summer and worked between 10-15 extra hours at a coffee shop during the school year just to try to get ahead and make ends meet. It’s a shame because many teachers (myself included) work more than 40 hours a week, putting in countless hours at night and on the weekends (and don’t get overtime). I think what the country needs to do is start considering what educators actually do and adjust salaries to keep teachers in the field. Granted, I could see people going into education for the wrong reason if the salaries were higher, but with a strong vetting system in the colleges and universities, I think that could be avoided. Teaching is hard. It’s crazy hard, but so rewarding. I just wish I didn’t have to worry about how I am going to pay bills at the end of the month and just had to focus on how to be a better educator for my students.

    • You have illustrated and explained my take on this subject very well: “We don’t pay teachers enough and treat them like sh*t.”

      /Was employed in a large, local public school district for over 8 years with constant educator contact. Worked in the Administration building and saw the office politics and waste firsthand.

    • Mike Worcester

      Couple the pay issue with the student loan burdens faced by many young professionals, not just teachers.

      I’m the son of a long-retired elementary teacher, so I used to hear all the silly jokes made about teachers hardly working and such. In response I use a simple mathematical quiz — a standard 40/hr/wk year-round job is 2,088 hours per year. Add up the number of hours teachers work during their contract year and I guarantee you it is more than that. So they are doing more work in nine months a year than other folks do in twelve.

      • Kayla

        My student loans are killing me. I wish there was an easier way for teachers to get loan forgiveness. I’m on the income-based loan repayment plan because I can’t do a traditional loan repayment plan on the salary that I make. Sometimes I feel like I’m never going to get out from under them.

        People say that teacher salaries are decent. Actually, for those people who get their masters and stay with a district for 20 years, their salaries are fine. The issue I have with teacher salaries is the starting salaries for beginning teachers. The reason the state is losing teachers in less than three years is that the starting salary isn’t enough to live on. In order for me to get a bump in pay, I have to spend more money for a Masters (which doesn’t help my financial plight) and cram studying and papers into an already full schedule while still teaching, just to make a few thousand more dollars. It just doesn’t make sense.

      • rover27

        Yep. Retired teacher myself. I did the same calculation when I was teaching. I probably worked more hours in 9 months than most do in 12.

  • jon

    Both of my sisters were teachers (neither is a paid teacher now, both are raising their own children, one of them is homeschooling.)

    When I discussed public schools and teaching with them they provided a different point of view.

    Both told me that they didn’t have a problem living on their own within a teachers salary. (one of them did have the principle on her student loans forgiven because she was a special ed teacher in a low income district).
    Both of them agreed that the issue with funding in the public schools is the supplies budget.

    Both of the told me how they were buying supplies for their classrooms out of pocket, how if they could have gotten the supplies they wanted/needed rather than the ones they could afford they would have been much better off.

    I don’t know if that is still the case, I don’t know if that is the case in all districts (both my sisters taught public schools in Iowa, one taught at a charter school in MN the other worked at an after school program in MN).

    I do know that things were rough for both of them financially when they were teachers, and they said it was because they were spending a significant portion of their income on teaching supplies.

  • Angry Jonny

    Both of my parents worked in education. My mother started as a teacher’s aid for Title IV kids, eventually she moved into 4th grade, then a blending of 4th grade and 4th grade Title IV kids. My dad was a high school teacher beginning in 1951. He taught 20th Century History, Ancient World, World Religions, Sociology, Humanities, Civics, and a class that didn’t have a name, but consisted of a group of 6 to 9 kids who the principal, my dad, and a couple guidance counselors identified as probably not making it to graduation. The textbook was called “Entering The World of Work”, and taught such basics as why it’s important to work, to get to work on time, to pay bills, etc. Combined, my parents gave ISD #162 76 years of educational service.

    My mom was the union rep for the teachers aid group in our region, and was-for a time-the lead negotiator for the entire teachers aid bargaining group for the state. She was instrumental in securing benefits for full time teachers aids, who are constantly under the budget microscope. Once she retired, administrators began actively gutting those benefits, mostly because they knew they’d never get past my mom.

    My dad showed up for school each day in a suit and tie. He taught with a big three panel chalkboard. When he would get to the unit on World War I, students would come to class on that particular day to see July 28th 1914 written in large letters across all three panels of the chalkboard. He spoke from a lectern. He typed all of his quizzes and tests on a manual typewriter for his entire career. We also farmed. We would be up by 5:00/5:30 every morning feeding and watering cows, then getting ready for school, coming home from school, drinking a cup of coffee, feeding and watering cows at night, having supper, and then correcting papers, preparing lessons, and everything else under the sun.

    My dad also served for a time as the lead negotiator for the teachers union for our district, and was well aware of the need to remain steadfast in the face of boards and administrators who constantly looked to teacher salaries and benefits as the primary source for budget cuts. When he retired, he still taught the Humanities class, which was a sort of survey of history, art, and literature from the late medieval to the industrial revolution. After about three years, they found a teacher who was able to somewhat meet the rigorous standards of that class. But it wasn’t the same after. My dad-a remarkable high tenor-would sometimes demonstrate to his class how a Gregorian chant sounded.

    When I asked him not all that long ago if he would still be teaching now if he were younger, he expressed serious doubts. The amount of non-teaching stuff that teachers have to do now is staggering. The targeting of teacher salaries is still as insidious as ever. Administrations are sniveling and conniving. Politicians have kicked the education ball around at the state to such a point that much of the general public look at teachers as though they are the problem.

    If my dad had to be a teacher today, he probably wouldn’t. And that’s sad, because that’s exactly what we need.

  • crystals

    I’ve been a teacher and I still work in education (I spent my morning at a school, in fact). I have so many thoughts on this, but I’ll just share a couple of initial musings:
    1) The very notion of “career” is changing. The generations entering the workforce now don’t see careers in the same way – they want to try things out and move around. For a field like teaching, that has a big impact. (In the Teacher Supply & Demand report that prompted the stories yesterday there’s some data about the percent of people who study education in college and never even start teaching. It’s wild.)
    2) The salary scale is frustrating to some. To get to a really comfortable salary it’s all about years taught, which can be difficult when you feel like you’re doing a kick ass job and there are folks down the hall making twice as much as you and getting the same or worse outcomes for students. It’s not a popular thing to say, but it’s real. It’s not the most important thing, but tackling this could help with retention.
    3) Overtesting and what feels like a lack of agency for teachers is a real problem too. What’s tough is that a lot of this is a local decision – there are very few tests that are actually mandated by the state/feds. Local districts have a lot of autonomy (and are soon going to have even more) around curriculum and how tests are used. Changes can and should be made to bring some of the creativity back into education while still ensuring there is some accountability. (My maxim as a teacher was that a well taught child can pass any standardized test without being taught to the test, and I still stand by it.)
    4) A silver lining: I think we could get a spike of folks going into teaching again thanks to our present day circumstances. When the economy is up and people feel good about the state of the country, interest in education declines. When there’s some worry about the state of things, public service careers – including teaching – benefits.

    • dave

      “To get to a really comfortable salary it’s all about years taught, which
      can be difficult when you feel like you’re doing a kick ass job and
      there are folks down the hall making twice as much as you and getting
      the same or worse outcomes for students. ”

      Very true, but that is WHY it is all about the schedule of time & degrees obtained. Back when it was a subjective call who got paid what, the Principal would NOT be fair in the eyes of many. To attract teachers it was found that an objective schedule of pay & raises worked better than “Come work here and if the Principal likes you, the pay will increase.”.

      • crystals

        Agree this was a problem and we cannot go back to that way of operating. Fortunately there are laws now that would make that far more difficult to do, and unions to protect workers who are discriminated against. I believe there can and should be a third way as it relates to teacher compensation.

        And goodness, I didn’t even mention pensions. That’s another big issue to tackle – it’s complex and it’s so important.

      • Heb Ienek

        “I was singled out because the Principal didn’t like me” I’ve heard this canard several times; in my opinion it is without merit.

        A principal is a manager. His product is well educated, successful students. A managers effectiveness is primarily measured by the productivity of the facilities and employees they manage.

        I refuse to believe a competent manager would mistreat a stand-out employee based upon personal bias; especially at a professional level. It flies in the face of every managerial best practice, and common sense.

        In my opinion, and admittidly without anything but anecdotal evidence, folks that use this as an excuse not to join the rest of the employed country are more interested in protecting their ability to promote their personal views and to protect their political activities in the work place.

        • // a competent manager

          The key phrase. In just about any workplace.

          • Heb Ienek

            The competence of managers is a direct reflection of the leadership, or lack thereof, of the CEO Superintendent.

          • John Erving

            Not so sure about that.

            Most classrooms are (or should be) largely autonomous. A good principal will mostly just stay out the way.

            Supt. have little to no influence on the ordinary classroom.

        • rover27

          Sorry. You’re wrong again. Way back when I first starting teaching, the school went to “merit” pay. Those that were buddies with the principal/superintendent got nice increases, those that didn’t got little to none. Also, morale went downhill. It all sounds good until you put it into practice. It’s too subjective.

          The following year, the teachers formed an NEA association and got “merit” pay tossed out and got a salary schedule put in.

    • Heb Ienek

      Excellent points. It seems to me the step and lane / blue collar trade labor model of pay for teaching professionals is not only unfair to stand-outs generally, it is also responsible for the dearth of teachers with STEM degrees.

      In the public labor marketplace, a physics or engineering undergrad commands, what, x3 the salary of a poli-sci major? It’s not a popular thing to say that supply and demand should apply to everyone, but it does.

  • John Erving

    “eports that gains in hiring teachers of color are being undermined by the state’s problems in keeping teachers.”

    It is illegal, by state and federal law, to make hiring, retention, or promotion decisions based on race. So, why are were trying to measure illegal activity?

    Maybe one of the reasons that many leave the profession is indeed the obsession with race?

    Look at Hamilton (the Broadway show)–we don’t need a certain “look” to be good entertainment or good teachers.

    • There’s no indication that any hiring, retention, or promotion decisions are being made on the basis of race.


      • John Erving

        Never said that there was.

        Please read carefully.

  • Jay Sieling

    I come from a family of teachers. My mother taught phy-ed and health before staying home and raising five kids. My dad was a vocational agriculture teacher for 39 years, then mentored new teachers after retirement. We were raised in a one income (teacher salary) family. Yet both sisters, myself, and one brother are all teaching. One of my nephews is teaching and coaching. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were both teachers, a brother-in-law and his wife both teach. Six cousins, and at least six of their kids are all teaching. It must be in the genes, somehow. I suspect most of us became teachers based on family role models.
    I think one thing that magnify the retention issue is recruitment. As others on this page have noted, many are being discouraged from entering the field. The student loan debt becomes a barrier. The disparagement of the profession can be overcome by some, but surely dissuades others. I think it would be helpful to broaden the base of teachers. Find a way to attract folks from business and industry to become teachers in the second half of a career. Companies could offer sabaticals to employees to go teach – supplementing the district and covering part of a salary. Kind of a job share. The benefits would be great for the school as well as the business.
    Maybe the answer lies in the paradox Undershaft presents to Cusins in G.B. Shaw’s Major Barbara: “Society cannot be saved until either the Professors of Greek take to making gunpowder, or else the makers of gunpowder become Professors of Greek” — (achievement gap, success, salary gaps, “society” – cannot be saved until either teachers take on the actions and ideas of everyone, or else everyone becomes a teacher.