Friday's (2006.06.02, p.1) Madison Daily Leader leads with a story about next week's New Teacher Academy taking place at Dakota State University. The purpose of the three-day event: to keep new teachers in the profession. State Secretary of Education cites the well-known (in education circles) statistic that nationwide, 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years.
O.K., hold it right there. Pop quiz: Imagine you are the Secretary of Education and you wanted to address new-teacher retention. Which of the following do you think would persuade more teachers to remain in the profession?
(A) Celebrate the accomplishments of new teachers;
(B) Reflect on new teachers' progress and influence on student achievement;
(C) Examine core propositions of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards;
(D) Develop professional relationships to achieve common educational goals;
(E) Participate in activities that demonstrate a commitment to the teaching profession;
(F) Receive more pay.
If you answered (F), you aren't thinking like a true education administrator. Such individuals don't get to their positions of power and influence with straight talk and common sense. They get there by proposing and lauding make-work mumbo-jumbo like options (A)-(E), which come straight from the Department of Education's description of the New Teacher Academy.
This story doesn't completely ignore the issue of teacher pay: Tom Hawley, dean of DSU's College of Education, notes (in column 5 of a six-column article) that new teachers "can go into the private sector and make a larger salary." Hawley says that through the New Teacher Academy, the state wants to be "proactive and try to keep the best and brightest teachers in the classrooms in South Dakota."
Actually, it sounds like the state is simply trying to find ways to make itself look good by throwing federal grant money down another hole. If you want to keep new teachers on the job, don't cut into their vacation with more mindless academic activities (the same sorts of tedious, content-free classes we already have to sit through to meet our overly burdensome and talent-discouraging certification requirements). Say "Good job, here's a check. Want to stick around for another year?" Handing out checks wouldn't look as good on an education administrator's resume as a fancy seminar, but it would achieve the goal of teacher retention a lot more directly and efficiently.
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