Apr 27 2007
04:39 pm

In today's LA Times, there is an interesting article entitled Teachers dropping out too: A study blames working conditions. Higher pay isn't the answer, it says. It poses the interesting question about whether teacher pay is as important as the environment in which a teacher is allowed to teach.

Sound like any schools around here? I wish teachers could more often understand that when parents criticize the school system, they are rarely blaming the teachers. Kind of like Congress, actually. Most folks like their own congressman, and most folks usually like their kid's teacher. The system is the problem.

more after the flip.

The Times piece is based on a study from the Center for Teacher Quality at Cal State Sacramento:

The study also casts doubt on commonly pursued remedies both for the teacher shortage and student achievement in general.

Classroom interruptions, student discipline, increasing demands, insufficient supplies, overcrowding, unnecessary meetings, lack of support — all play a role in burning out teachers.

"They're not just driving teachers crazy; they're driving teachers out of the classrooms," Futernick said.

Stephenson is among the 35% of L.A. Unified teachers who quit within five years, according to school district data.

And as in most other cases, salary wasn't the primary factor.

Teacher retention is a big deal. Consider this:

At high-minority and high-poverty schools, teacher turnover typically runs at 10% annually.

"If this churning is going on, you can be sure you have a dysfunctional school," Futernick said. "As long as we think of these schools as combat zones, we'll never solve the retention problem and we'll never close the achievement gap" between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers.

Do we have any dysfunctional schools in Knox County? Where are the target schools under NCLB? Is this dysfunction causing more teachers to leave? Surely we can't be like California...right? According to this KNS article, Knox County faces 300 teacher vacancies next year.

Oak Ridge, Maryville, and Alcoa school officials said they don't struggle with teacher retention as Knox County does.

California estimates it wastes $455 million in teacher training because of premature departures. Interesting, isn't it?

"We have a high-school dropout problem," Futernick said, "in large part because we have a teacher dropout problem."

After reading the Times article, I put together a list of factors that might explain why teachers are "dropping out" in Knox County:

- no local control or authority to manage their school

- teachers not viewed as experts

- teachers are saddled with administrative responsibilities and paperwork that take them away from time with students

- there few workplace standards that protect teachers from unnecessary interruptions, paperwork and meetings.

- higher teacher-student ratios.

- lack of student accountability. students unprepared, no materials

- lack of parental involvement.

- lack of parental accountability.

Has anyone ever bothered to survey our teachers anonymously and get at what is really going on?

bizgrrl's picture

We have a teacher friend.

We have a teacher friend. This person teaches middle school in the west side of town.

Some of the problems related to us include:

large class sizes

consistently rowdy kids that ruin the class for all of the others

mainstreaming kids that are not really able to keep up and need more attention than can be had in a typical classroom

parents that are not involved

parents that think their kids can do no wrong

This person is one of the most patient, kind people I have ever met. Will put up with just about anything. Has been hurt by kids and threatened by kids/parents. Keeps on teaching.

Rachel's picture

"Higher pay isn't the

"Higher pay isn't the answer."

Many years ago when I worked at TVA, an economist there said something that's stuck with me every since - "TVA has to pay you for the disutility of working here." In other words, TVA salaries have to be high enough to make folks put up with the bureaucracy.

He was right too. I would have left TVA in a second for a job paying the same $$. I would have left for a job paying somewhat less $$ also. But TVA paid me enough to make me endure the b.s. involved with working there (at least until they offered me a year's salary to leave - but that's another story).

I suspect it's the same way with teachers. You can keep more of 'em in the same conditions with higher pay. Or you can keep more of 'em with the same pay and better conditions. But something has to give.

jbarker's picture


ironic that teachers, it seems, bear the brunt of criticism leveled at education. "ironic" in that the real problem is the kids the criticisers send to school.

this area does not have a traditon of respect for education and learning. and it has not acquired such respect otherwise.

students reflect their environment; they do not arrive at school with any appreciation for learning or respect for education generally.

teachers do not have much to work with.

i am not a teacher.

SammySkull's picture


Not all teachers are good teachers, nor are all teachers selfless and desiring to help children. I won't blame teachers for the ills of the system, but one must admit that they are a part of that system. Based on my and my wife's experiences in school as well as on anecdotal evidence from real life friends and internet friends, I feel the problems with our schools lie in the system itself and in every facet of that system. A one-size-fits-all education does not in fact fit all.

As for children arriving at school with no appreciation for learning or respect for education, what can you expect of a system that has standardized education to the point where all teachers are required to teach to a test that, in the end, has no bearing on real life outside of school. School is the best place to learn how to hate learning.

Treehouse's picture


My experience with Knox County public schools is that the teachers try pretty hard to do a good job. They don't get support from the administration. The "AJ/downtown" offices are a hindrance instead of a help. Where the rubber hits the road is in the relationship between student and teacher.

If the parent does not advocate for their child, and the teacher is powerless as advocate for their students, the learning process breaks down. I've seen lots of money dumped into schools via computers and programs, but I haven't seen support for the personal involvement of teachers and parents to advocate for what's best. Without support, many just give up and fade away. I blame the management of the schools, just like I blame the management of companies that don't care about the workers who do the work.

Real change can only come through the involved folks that care enough to work around the system because there ain't much working through it.

R. Neal's picture

As many folks have mention

As many folks have mention many times in these discussions about school performance, parental involvement is probably the #1 indicator of success.

Here's an idea (probably not original) that recently occurred to me...

For any kid who qualifies for the school lunch program (an indicator of poverty), pay the parents (or parent) $25 for every meeting with teachers, school officials, PTA, etc. they attend regarding their child's education.

This is not to suggest that all parents are too stupid and/or lazy to attend. Instead, there may be a single mom working two jobs, or who may not have transportation, or who is not able to pay a babysitter. $25 could help, and could end up being a great investment that would save society money in the long run.

Plus it might motivate kids to see their parents get involved, and parents might learn something and want to be more involved. Even the ones who are too stupid and/or lazy to get involved might learn something that would motivate them.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

TN Progressive

TN Politics

Knox TN Today

Local TV News

News Sentinel

    State News

    Wire Reports

    Lost Medicaid Funding

    To date, the failure to expand Medicaid/TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding. (Source)

    Search and Archives