Organization Focuses on Reducing Teacher Turnover

This school year as many as 45,000 teachers will not return to the schools they taught at last year. Many of them switch districts -- but thousands will also leave the profession altogether.

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Between the 1999 to 2001 school years seven percent of the nation's private school teachers and 13 percent of public school teachers left the profession according to data from the Department of Education. Another eight percent transferred to different schools. The trend continues this year with as many as 50 percent of new teachers expected to leave the profession within five years of starting. Former West Virginia Governor Bill Wise is the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington D.C. based advocacy organization. He says new teachers give a litany of reasons for leaving.

In Texas, the Education Department estimates about 19,000 teachers will leave the schools this year. The Houston Independent School District routinely replaces more than 1,000 teachers every school year. HISD Spokesman Terry Abbott says this year they hired 1,300 teachers to fill the vacancies.

And that gets expensive. Districts have to process out the teacher that's leaving, recruit new teachers and then train them only to start the process all over again when another teacher leaves. The Alliance estimates it costs at least a third of a teacher's salary to recruit and hire a replacement. Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon says an even more serious impact is the loss of experienced teachers.

If the problem is evident that still leaves the question of what to do about it. Abbott says it should start with better pay. Fallon says add to that more respect for teachers at the administrative level. And Wise says new teachers would stick around longer if they had mentors leading them through the first few years.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...