Opinion: Where have all the good teachers gone? Retiring earlier.

A south Georgia grand jury indicts a sheriff and two deputies related to alleged abuses during a schoolwide pat-down in Worth County.

Jim Arnold is a former Georgia district superintendent. He has written several pieces for the blog, and today tackles the thinning ranks of Georgia veteran teachers.

You can read more from him on his blog.

By Jim Arnold

Most teachers love their jobs and are good at them. As in any profession, there are exceptions, but what’s scary about the education profession now is not that there are enormous numbers of bad teachers (there aren’t) but enormous numbers of good teachers who have recently retired or soon will.

Some absolutely can’t wait to get out the schoolhouse door for the last time, and their replacements are not exactly flooding into teacher prep courses. Add the 44 percent of new teachers who never make it past their first five years and we have a full-blown teacher shortage. Here are the numbers from the Georgia Teachers Retirement System:

 

Note the increase in retirements for those with less than 30 years in the classroom. Not only are we losing 44 percent of new teachers, it appears those with 10 to 25 years are opting out, too. This problem of finding good teachers is also a function of geography. Many systems — especially rural schools — are struggling to find qualified teachers. It will soon get worse.

The state Department of Education says there are 1.7 million students in Georgia’s public schools and that close to 7,000 new teachers are hired each year. In 2015, there were 19,428 students enrolled in University System of Georgia teacher education programs. If all of those students graduate and seek employment over the next four years, the best-case scenario will mean a little under 5,000 teachers graduate each year from 2015-2018.

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement says there were 110,059 teachers and 8,449 leaders (118,508 total) employed in schools in 2015. About 25 percent of the teacher workforce is made up of teachers with less than five years of experience and 51 percent had less than 10 years. The University System of Georgia says the production of new teachers — not those who enter teacher education courses but the ones who graduate — is down 20 percent from 2011-2015.

Specific teaching areas like math, science and special education are experiencing even greater shortages, and many systems in Georgia have positions that remain unfilled. In a national survey of math educators, the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators found three reasons for the drop in prospective math teachers:

•More money available in other careers;

•Perceived or imagined perceptions of teaching (high-stakes testing, de-professionalization of teaching, lack of bargaining rights and teacher burnout);

•Negative perception and lack of respect for the profession.

I found these perceptions in line with my own observations, but decided to ask present and former teachers what they thought.  This is not scientific data gathering, and I make no claim that these perceptions represent the beliefs and ideas of all teachers, but here are some responses:

•Raises would be great, but capping the experience raises at 17 years doesn’t encourage us to stay any longer than we have to.

•Most teachers don’t go into the profession with expectations of financial reward, but they do need to see they are respected.

•Raise teacher salaries every time politicians vote themselves a raise. Don’t tell me we can’t afford teacher raises. The money suddenly appears every time they want one for themselves or their staffs.

•Stop micromanagement and buying every program that comes along.  The curriculum is now scripted and there is no opportunity for creativity.

•Eliminate all standardized testing during school hours. Effective testing is diagnostic. Current testing serves no educational purpose when we don’t see scores until the following year.

•I have a great fear of litigation (even after 19 years of teaching) because of the complexity and rules of testing and special education services. Parents seem to automatically assume every issue is the teacher’s fault.

•Teachers enter the profession because they love teaching. Paperwork, testing, test prep, unpaid duties, larger classes and micromanagement make it impossible to find the time to actually teach.

•Our politicians listen to the wrong people. Teachers are rarely included as part of any discussion about improving education. It’s like a baseball owner that thinks he knows the baseball side of operations.  Having control of baseball finances doesn’t mean you can judge baseball talent. The same applies to teaching.

•Professional development is time wasted. Teachers could teach each other much more effectively than anyone else if given the chance.

•We are operating on a calendar that is a carryover from 150 years ago. We need a six-hour day with 210-225 days a year and a summer break with no summer school.

•Discipline is deteriorating because administrators worry too much about numbers and parent reaction and central office interference and not the negative effects of misbehavior on the kids in the classes who want to be there and want to learn. Students are often allowed to avoid any consequence at all for misbehavior.

•The federal Department of Education should be eliminated.  They collect Title I money from states and send it back to the states. Name one thing they do to help kids learn or help teachers in the classroom.

•Drop the “data driven” sham. Data are not sensitive to context and kids are not data.

•No class should have more than 24 students. Period. Right now, I have 34 in my smallest class.

•Why do we continue with the misguided belief all students should go to college? We need to restore CTAE classes and diplomas.

•New teachers are usually the ones placed in the classes with the most at risk students. They don’t have the experience or the skills to deal with them, and it becomes a sink or swim situation very quickly.

I once attended a meeting on organizational efficiency hosted by the CEO of Chick-fil-A. Someone asked him, “What do all these people in your corporate office do?” He replied: “Every person in our organization has one job, and that’s to sell chicken sandwiches. If you’re not selling chicken sandwiches you’d better be doing something to help those that do.”

We need more people helping teachers be effective teachers. More rules won’t help, more testing is a continued waste of money, time and resources, and political interference is a continual roadblock to effective teaching and learning.

This is what will help:

Believe in and support teachers. Poverty is the cause of achievement gaps and the number one obstacle to educational success. Stop the culture of blaming teachers. Teachers don’t cause poverty any more than law enforcement causes crime or doctors create disease.

Invest in teachers. Professional development should be experienced teachers working with less experienced teachers. Pay great teachers to share their knowledge and ideas in ways that allow them to stay in the classroom. One great teacher working with three or four others is a powerful tool. Large groups of teachers listening to one “expert” in an auditorium is not.

Pay great teachers more to work in high poverty schools. Working in these schools is difficult. Make it worth the effort for teachers that want to increase their salaries and stay in the classroom. Want to attract great teachers to high poverty areas? Pay them to travel and teach there. Want to identify high poverty schools?  Simply look at standardized test scores. They don’t tell you anything about teaching and learning but do serve wonderfully to point out through the zip code effect the level of poverty in a given area.

Eliminate standardized testing for anything other than diagnostic purposes. The money saved would be more beneficial invested in teaching and learning than in the autopsy reports generated at the insistence of “accountabullies” in the name of false accountability. Allow teachers the opportunity to teach without having to teach to the test.

Don’t believe in magic bullets. The answer is not in canned programs guaranteed to produce higher test scores but in the power of great teachers to reach students on a personal level. Invest in people and not in programs. Success through standardization is a myth. Every student needs and deserves individualized learning at all levels.

Technology is a tool for teachers and not an answer unto itself. For every child who learns through technology alone there are more who fail miserably without the intervention and guidance of a teacher. Lower class sizes, modernize the school calendar and give teachers the time and tools to teach.

Help prevent legislative meddling. Unfunded mandates and legislative attempts at applying standardized solutions to local issues have done more to hurt public education than to help. Expecting every child to achieve at the same rate at the same level ignores fundamental differences in human development…sort of like Arnie Duncan’s plan to test special education students out of special education through higher expectations.

Top down implementation does not work in education any more than it does in government. Issuing a decree that all children will succeed does not automatically mean that all children will succeed any more than outlawing death will make doctors more successful in treating diseases…but it will discourage doctors.

 

Reader Comments 0

123 comments
Lori Burroughs
Lori Burroughs

What do you expect after bashing them for a decade.

Lynda Dial
Lynda Dial

TEACHERS AER RETIRING BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN TOLD THEY HAVE TO TEACH. THEY SPEND THEIR OWN MONEY ON SUPPLIES, GO IN EARLY AND STAY LATE.

Joanne Mangham Mahone
Joanne Mangham Mahone

They aren't gone. They are retiring and getting rehired as Substitute Teachers.

Mike Nunn
Mike Nunn

Perhaps if they were paid better

Jim Chapman
Jim Chapman

Why work at some place where you get no respect and meager pay?

Paul Spurling
Paul Spurling

Um teachers are getting tired of being disrespected by your little brats.

Alice O'Lenick
Alice O'Lenick

No respect, no discipline from students, no wonder they’re leaving

Ashley Blue
Ashley Blue

health insurance, bad pay, stupid parents have scared them away. it's not about teaching anymore it's about being a glorified babysitter

Tony Bystrika
Tony Bystrika

No wonder why kids come out of school dumb as a brick. Do they teach anything practical in school nowadays?

Benjamin Hanks
Benjamin Hanks

Yeah go read the state standards they're required to teach. Apparently you're clueless and cant even comment on the topic at hand.

Roberta Cromlish
Roberta Cromlish

Benjamin Hanks You can't teach class after class of bratty, disrespectful little urchins whose parent is likely to throw a brick at you if they don't like that their brats cellphone was taken for the day.

Russell Smith
Russell Smith

Probably retiring early because they have to deal with idiotic parents like yourself.

Ed Browning
Ed Browning

The health insurance offered Georgia teachers is terrible. Alabama teachers have the best in the nation. Why? Alabama's teacher union is strong and actually works for them. Georgia needs to reassess and get with the program.

Eloise MA
Eloise MA

No they don't want to be killed by the students. Out country is in a mess.

jgcair
jgcair

Excellent summary. I found all of this to be true when I had to leave the teaching profession in 2007, due to health conditions that were incompatible and somewhat induced by that career choice. I applaud your frankness but sadly, do not think it will make any difference. Calls for correcting these issues have been longstanding and little progress has been made. My dissertations studies resulted in a book entitled This Teacher Talks. It is an enlightening read for any one who has an interest in what really goes on in our schools.

Kristee Mills
Kristee Mills

Well... They've retired. The two my daughter has needs to leave the school. So ungrateful, do not want help, and could careless about her and her 504 plan

Kelly Mogle Filer
Kelly Mogle Filer

I left after 11 years!!! When the cost of daycare for 2 ='s close to 3/4s of my paycheck, why wouldn't i?

Jackie Guthrie-VanAllen
Jackie Guthrie-VanAllen

Who would want to teach these out of control monsters the parents of today are raising? No discipline allowed in or out of the classroom,no thanks!

Elizabeth Downie
Elizabeth Downie

I left because of a lack of student discipline from administrators and parents. I tried so hard, loved my job, conducted myself as a professional. It was also hard to be paid the same as people who couldn't spell or speak properly, but who were responsible for teaching our children...and we were never supposed to say anything about their lack of knowledge.

Josh Ua
Josh Ua

They're all in jail from having sex with the students.

Walt Bundy
Walt Bundy

Take away the job security, cut their pay over and over for decades, what did you expect ?

AzaleaAnnie
AzaleaAnnie

What has happened to education?  There's no one answer.  The problems are many:


Teachers used to have a degree in the subject taught.  Now 'teachers' get a degree in 'education theory' that believes if you understand education theory you can teach any subject.  Not so.


A teacher who knows his/her material can light up a classroom.


A teacher who reads a lesson plan handed down from a Washington bureaucrat can't excite students.


I remember an article in the AJC in 2008 about Bill Ayers - the leader along with his wife Bernardine Dohrn of the Weather Underground.   These two wanted to bring down the US government and thought millions of Americans would join them.  They robbed for living expenses and bomb materials.  They hid out, bombed a police station, blew up the building their bomb makers were living in, set fire to the home of a judge whose decision they disliked.......with the judge, his wife and children asleep in the home. (Fortunately, the judge and his family got out of the house safely.)


Ayers' wealthy father got him off on a technicality:  the FBI had an error on a warrant or something.  Dohrn went to jail.  Both became teachers.......and writers of textbooks.   Anyone see a problem with this?   (I recall a letter to the editor in the AJD in 2008 from a UGA teacher defending Ayers.  She actually praised Ayers, stating, "He writes books".   I wonder if she still 'teaches' at our flagship university??


mandingo 856
mandingo 856

Too many unskilled administrators.  In the 5 years I taught HS after a career in business, they seemed obsessed with using whatever the latest lingo is and completely lacked the ability to build and motivate a team.   Requirements for the certificate don't build leaders but paperwork wonks.  Some PD done by hired consultants is bizarre.  Education "leadership" seems to attract a strange group. Seems like the focus is gaming the system in the name of achieving magazine rankings.  Forget the kids that would be better served by vocational education, counselors are out of their league unless it comes to talking ACT/SAT/AP and such so those kids will have to figure it out for themselves.  Good luck keeping people in this occupation, for me it was completely unfulfilling.

Kelly Gresham
Kelly Gresham

So much truth here...it almost made me cry to read it. Thank you! It's nice to know someone else sees and understands what is going on. If only it led to real change ...

David1153
David1153

I am a first year teacher but in my second career.  I wanted to teach to make a difference but i am not making any impact. I am a title 1 math teacher and the problem i have is no training and almost no student motivation.  I have asked for classroom management modeling and have received none from my school system.  I am on an island.  If I keep my head down no one seems to know or care that I am present.   Kids do not do the assignments and it seems that there is nothing to motivate them to do them including in many cases parent contact.  The kids are out of control and the administration seems to just hope it goes away. I am very disappointed with what has happened to our public school system.

Starik
Starik

@David1153 Stick it out and try a different system. There are still some good ones.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@David1153 Ouch. I feel your pain. I recommend buying the book "Tools For Teaching" by Dr. Fred Jones.  Best book I ever read on classroom management - no promises, but for $25 what do you have to lose?

The 3rd edition is current, but the 2nd edition has some user reviews in amazon with lavish praise from teachers....


AzaleaAnnie
AzaleaAnnie

@David1153 Curious about your statement, "I am a title 1 math teacher and the problem I have is no training...."


How can someone teach math without a degree in math?  

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

I am guessing David has the math he needs, but no training in teaching/classroom management/etc.

Sherry Coker
Sherry Coker

It sure does put the children at risk, scary.

Shelley Wilson
Shelley Wilson

one thing I know many of the public schools grade schools included have out of control children also the classrooms are over crowded. Substitute teachers learn quickly which schools they will never go back to.

James Miller
James Miller

I had a couple of teachers who I swear retired while still on the payroll.

AzaleaAnnie
AzaleaAnnie

Yes - in my school district there were two retired teachers who worked full time with full pay and benefits.


One man would tell the class to read the assigned chapter while he sat at his desk and read the book he brought to school every day.  He was a part-time minister at a small church and the book he brought was his bible.  He was finally 'promoted' out of the classroom.


One woman was an alcoholic, came in every morning with her breath smelling of alcohol, and became confused every time she tried to lecture.   Her family loved and cared for her......good family, but the school superintendent and school board all ignored the problem.  After more than a decade, she became ill from her alcohol consumption and died.  

Bryan Sorohan
Bryan Sorohan

It's actually a welcome shock to see this kind of clear-eyed analysis in the AJC. The part about testing and the whole "data-driven" nonsense movement is particularly important. Nobody who pays homage to "data" seems willing to interrogate the causes for the patterns in that data, and it wastes a lot of effort. Maureen Downey can atone for a lot of sins against teachers 20 years ago with more articles like this today.

Von Barber
Von Barber

YES!! WHERE, have ALL, The Excellent; Outstanding; Dedicated, Teachers gone!! Today's Teachers, are OBSESSED, with: Extreme LABELING OF STUDENTS; NEW CARS; NEW HOUSES; LATEST HAIRSTYLES; LATEST HAIR FASHIONS!! Some of Today's Teachers, are even, UNLAWFULLY, AND SEXUALLY INVOLVED, WITH THE STUDENTS!! (Atlanta, GEORGIA).

Ann Rousseau Weiss
Ann Rousseau Weiss

Oh goodness, Mr. (Ms.?) Barber.  I suggest you spend a full day in any classroom today.  I was the Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year 1990, semi-retired a few years ago. I know what excellent teaching looks like.  I have just finished 5 years working with Alternative Certification, people who have college degrees but want to become teachers.  I spent a rigorous, intense year interacting with those teacher/interns.  I did not see any of the foolishness you describe.  Instead I saw dedicated individuals who sincerely wanted to make a difference in the lives of students.  Last year one of my very best interns applied and was accepted to teach at one of the most challenging high schools in Houston, Texas.  I suggested there were other high schools that would be less problematic.  He said, " I think if I have been given a lot in my life I owe it to students who have not been as fortunate.  Those are the students I want to be with every day."  Come to the Houston area to see dedicated teachers working hard every day.  Dr. Ann Rousseau Weiss

Starik
Starik

"Good" teachers retiring? How do you know it's just the good ones?

Bob Halverson
Bob Halverson

You have CNN and the internet...why would listen to a human being?

Sam Eppolito
Sam Eppolito

I am seeing more and more news stories of teachers having sex with their students. I have seen many teachers when on a strike displaying vulgarity and encouraging their students to skip school and join in the strike protests. I saw this in Strongsville, Ohio and up in Wisconsin. Can anyone explain this behavior to me?

Chad E. Suttles
Chad E. Suttles

Look at the locations and political views where the majority of these incidents are taking place.

Gen A. Ohane
Gen A. Ohane

Please.....this is not the majority of dedicated educators!