Mary­land schools strug­gle to re­tain young, qual­i­fied teach­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY KATISHI MAAKE

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 ed­u­ca­tion. 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, Ms. Beers has over­come many of the strug­gles young teach­ers face when first en­ter­ing the pro­fes­sion.

“It’s over­whelm­ing,” Ms. 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 OK.’”

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

The 2016 edi­tion of Ed­u­ca­tion Week’s “Qual­ity 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 is­sue,” said Richard Inger­soll, pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion and so­ci­ol­ogy in the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Grad­u­ate School of Ed­u­ca­tion. “Teach­ing is a high turnover oc­cu­pa­tion.”

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, ac­cord­ing to data from the Mary­land State De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s 2014-2015 teacher and prin­ci­pal ef­fec­tive­ness rat­ings.

In the 2015-2016 school year, Mary­land lost 4,536 of its ap­prox­i­mate 60,000 teach­ers, a 7 per­cent at­tri­tion 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 per­cent.

“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 Mr. 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 ed­u­ca­tors, Ore­gon, re­ceived a rat­ing of 4.09. The Learn­ing Pol­icy In­sti­tute cre­ated this scale by draw­ing data from National Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics, said De­siree CarverThomas, 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 com­pen­sated 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 sev­enth, ac­cord­ing to National Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.

But Mr. Men­del­son and Ms. CarverThomas said sim­ply com­pen­sat­ing teach­ers with higher salaries isn’t enough to keep re­ten­tion rates afloat.

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