Mary­land strug­gles to re­tain young, qual­i­fied teach­ers

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By KATISHI MAAKE Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

AN­NAPO­LIS — In nine years of teach­ing el­e­men­tary school, Robin Beers has al­ways felt the pro­fes­sion never came easy.

Beers did not de­cide she wanted to teach un­til af­ter un­der­grad when she re­ceived her master’s de­gree in spe­cial ed­uca- tion. Ever since en­ter­ing teach­ing, she said she has felt as if she has not had enough time or sup­port to con­sis­tently suc­ceed.

Now that she is set­tled at an Anne Arun­del el­e­men­tary school teach­ing third grade, Beers has over­come many of the strug­gles young teach­ers face when first en­ter­ing the pro­fes­sion.

“It’s over­whelm­ing,” Beers said. “I of­ten strug­gle to keep things in per­spec­tive. I some­times have to tell my­self, ‘You’re not run­ning the Pen­ta­gon; it’s go­ing to be okay.’”

Mary­land schools are of­ten touted as some of the best in the coun­try, but be­neath the sur­face, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ing- ly dif­fi­cult to re­tain ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers dur­ing the first few years into the pro­fes­sion de­spite re­ceiv­ing rel­a­tively high pay among teach­ers na- tion­wide.

The 2016 edi­tion of Ed­u­ca­tion Week’s “Quali- ty Counts” re­port gave Mary­land schools an over­all B rat­ing, which ranks the state among the top five in the coun­try. Ad­di­tion­ally, Mary­land’s el­i­gi­ble schools re­ceived the high­est per­cent­age of gold and sil­ver awards from a 2016 U.S. News re­port. Gold and sil­ver awards re­flect which schools best pre­pare stu­dents for col­lege and achieve pass­ing scores on Ad­vanced Place­ment tests.

De­spite this, Mary­land, like much of the coun­try, strug­gles to curb teacher turnover, es­pe­cially in the most dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas.

“It is a widespread is- sue,” said Richard Inger- soll, pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion and so­ci­ol­ogy in the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­sylva- nia’s Grad­u­ate School of Ed­u­ca­tion. “Teach­ing is a high turnover oc­cupa- tion.”

Nearly half of new teach­ers who have com­pleted be­tween one to two years of teach­ing will have left the field by the be­gin­ning of the third full year, ac- cord­ing to data from the Mary­land State De­part- ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s 20142015 teacher and princi- pal ef­fec­tive­ness rat­ings.

In the 2015-2016 school year, Mary­land lost 4,536 of its ap­prox­i­mate 60,000 teach­ers, a 7 per­cent at- tri­tion rate, ac­cord­ing to state de­part­ment of ed­u­ca­tion. Forty per­cent, or 1,815, of those lost teach­ers had five or fewer years of ex­pe­ri­ence.

More­over, 29.7 per­cent of teach­ers in the state have fewer than five years of ex­pe­ri­ence, whereas teach­ers with more than 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence ac­count for about 16 per- cent.

“There is re­search that shows there is a link be­tween teacher ex­pe­ri­ence and the qual­ity of teach­ing that goes on in the class­room,” said Adam Men­del­son, spokesman for the Mary­land State Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, the state’s largest teacher union. “When there is a lot of turnover, it’s harder to es­tab­lish re­la­tion­ships be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents.”

While Inger­soll says teacher re­ten­tion rates are low across the coun­try, a Septem­ber re­port from the Learn­ing Pol­icy In­sti­tute gave Mary­land a teacher at­trac­tive­ness rat­ing of 2.1 on a 5-point av­er­age quin­tile scale, which is tied for 46th in the coun­try along with Mis­sis­sippi and New Mexico.

For com­par­i­son, the high­est rated state in terms of at­tract­ing ed­uca- tors, Ore­gon, re­ceived a rat­ing of 4.09. The Learn­ing Pol­icy In­sti­tute creat- ed this scale by draw­ing data from Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics, said De­siree Carver Thomas, re­search and pol­icy as­so­ciate with the in­sti­tute. As part of a state teacher men­tor­ing pro­gram, Ore­gon was able to re­tain 90 per­cent of teach­ers dur­ing the 2013-2014 school year.

Mary­land teach­ers, how­ever, are bet­ter com- pen­sated com­pared to the rest of the coun­try with an av­er­age start­ing salary of $43,235, which ranks fifth in the coun­try, and an av­er­age over­all salary of $66,482, which ranks sev- enth, ac­cord­ing to Na­tion- al Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.

But Men­del­son and Carver-Thomas said sim- ply com­pen­sat­ing teach­ers with higher salaries isn’t enough to keep re­ten­tion rates afloat.

“We found that salary com­pen­sa­tion cor­re­sponds with re­cruit­ing a teacher, but it does not cor­re­late with re­ten­tion,” Carver-Thomas told the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land’s Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice. “It’s re­ally im­por­tant that com­pen­sa­tion comes hand-in-hand with great work­ing con­di­tions.”

Seven of the state’s 24 ju­ris­dic­tions have higher than the state av­er­age of 29.7 per­cent of teach­ers with five or fewer years of ex­pe­ri­ence. Dorches- ter and Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties lead the way with 42.2 per­cent and 40.6 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Al­though Inger­soll says low teacher re­ten­tion most com­monly af­fects lower in­come ar­eas, Theresa Dud­ley Mitchell, pres­i­dent of the Prince Ge­orge’s County Ed­u­ca­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, said she is hes­i­tant to la­bel in­come as the sole con­di­tion for poor re­ten­tion.

“The re­al­ity is that there are some kids that are go­ing to get it be­cause of you and some are go­ing to get it in spite of you,” Dud­ley Mitchell said. “Prince Ge­orge’s County is not alone. The con­cept of teacher re­ten­tion is some­thing we re­ally have to get a hold on, as to why peo­ple who want to come into the pro­fes­sion ul­ti­mately end up leav­ing.”

Dud­ley Mitchell said teach­ing to­day is more de­mand­ing with higher stakes in test­ing and in­creased work­loads for teach­ers. She said a healthy bal­ance of veter- an and new teach­ers cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment con- ducive for teach­ers and their stu­dents to suc­ceed.

For Kyle De Jan, teach­ing at Frederick Dou­glass High School in Prince Ge­orge’s County has been a bit­ter­sweet op­por- tu­nity since he is the fi­nal step in his stu­dents’ pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence.

“As a new teacher, you’re re­ally afraid of your learn­ing curve, just like any other job,” said De Jan, a sec­ond-year teacher. “You feel re­ally anx­ious be­cause your learn­ing curve means they’re go­ing to miss out on things. That feels like you’re dam­ag­ing their post-se­condary suc­cess.”

Beers said teach­ing is a sig­nif­i­cant time com­mit­ment with in­creas­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ex­pec­ta­tions mount­ing ev­ery day. She added that these are am­pli­fied when ad­min­is­tra­tors mi­cro­man­age and at­tempt to con­trol how teach­ers op­er­ate their class­room.

“I’m best when I close my door and trust what I’m do­ing,” Beers said. “I know the thing I’ve needed the most is more time to hone my craft.”

State Sen. Paul Pin­sky (D-Prince Ge­orge’s) spon­sored leg­is­la­tion that went into ef­fect in July that cre­ates a pilot pro­gram in­tended to give first-year teach­ers more time with men­tor­ing, peer ob­ser­va­tion and as­sis­tance with plan­ning.

The Teacher In­duc­tion, Re­ten­tion and Ad­vance­ment Act of 2016 will be pi­loted in Anne Arun­del County and per­ma­nently in­crease the state-match­ing stipend for teach­ers who hold a Na­tional Board Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from $2,000 to $4,000.

“Teach­ers get over­whelmed,” Pin­sky said. “We want to have a plan of hav­ing more time and sup­port in the first year to in­crease the re­ten­tion rate.”

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