New study finds urban schools losing irreplaceable talent, neglect their best teachers
A new report from TNTP sheds light on the real teacher retention crisis in urban schools – not merely a failure to retain teachers but a failure to retain the right teachers. The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools found that schools are systematically neglecting their highest-performing teachers, losing tens of thousands every year, even as they keep many of their lowest-performing teachers indefinitely—with disastrous consequences for students, schools and the teaching profession.
Researchers, who examined four urban school districts composed of 90,000 teachers and 1.4 million students, found that each year, these “irreplaceables” – teachers so successful at advancing student learning that they are nearly impossible to replace – leave their schools because of inattention from their principals, poor school cultures that fail to cultivate mutual respect, and policies that do not reward performance.
The message is clear: high-performing teachers want a profession that takes their work in classrooms seriously and does not dole out recognition or rewards indiscriminately.
The report, which was funded by the Joyce Foundation and other philanthropies, recommends two strategies for addressing this retention crisis:
Make retention top teachers a top priority. Districts should aim to keep more than 90 percent of their "Irreplaceables" annually. to do this they must monitor and improve school working conditions, pay these teachers what they’re worth and create new career pathways that extend their reach.
Strengthen the teaching profession by setting higher expectations. Leaders at all levels should set a new standard for effectiveness: Teachers who cannot teach as well as the average first-year teacher should be considered ineffective and dismissed or counseled out (unless they are first-year teachers). Policymakers should change teacher hiring and layoff policies that discourage schools from enforcing higher expectations.
The report has already received the attention of policy makers, including US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who commented: “America’s best teachers are truly irreplaceable. I’ve said that when it comes to teaching, talent matters tremendously. But TNTP’s report documents in painful detail that school leaders are doing far too little to nurture, retain, and reward great teachers—and not nearly enough to identify and assist struggling teachers. Our teachers, who play such a crucial role in the lives of children, deserve a profession built on respect and rigor. And our children deserve—and need—to learn from those irreplaceable teachers.”
Download the full report.
The Joyce Foundation makes grants to improve the quality of life in the Great Lakes region, especially through initiatives designed to improve public policies. The Education Program works to close the achievement gap by improving the quality of teachers in schools that serve low-income students and communities of color and ensuring all students can read well by the end of third grade. The program’s teacher quality grant portfolio supports research that is focused on making teacher evaluations more meaningful, giving all teachers the tools they need to become great, rewarding teachers for excellence, and attracting more talented adults into the profession.