The ‘churn’ and turnover issue in the teaching profession

There have been some recent articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer about turnover issues in the teaching profession. Sometimes referred to as ‘churn’, this turnover is destructive to the profession of teaching and the articles did offer some salient observations about this problem.
I believe that a look at the larger picture of teacher turnover is important to learn about. It is a multi-layered problem and I want to add my two cents to the discussion.
I am a retired teacher and have worked both in charter and Philly public schools, and I believe that teacher perspectives to this problem are a vital part of finding solutions.
Here is my working premise: when a school faculty has a mix of seasoned and newer teachers, and they are given the freedom to work together to form curriculum, then instruction will improve and student outcomes will reflect that improvement.
That being said, the problem that teachers are leaving the profession deserves a closer look. I believe that the charter school movement bears a large share of the responsibility for teacher turnover and teachers leaving the profession. I do know that charters find it acceptable to have large turnover (above twenty five percent) every year. They do this because they do not believe that senior teachers are a benefit to them. Charters can keep hiring new teachers every year and these new, inexperienced, teachers will not be resistant to a curriculum (which they have not contributed to) that seeks to teach students from a prescribed program, in a step by step fashion. Teach for America is the largest supplier (at least it was and I think it still is) for these new teachers.
The charter school movement has also developed their very own ersatz ‘graduate’ school, which reinforces this step by step methodology and has spread nationally at this time. The charter school movement has also developed its own seminars and workshops where this type of training occurs.
This has led to a diminishment of the teaching profession. It is harder to find teachers that have years of experience (and those years are a great positive) in many schools. You will not find many senior teachers in charter schools and experienced public school teachers are being driven out because their schools are starved for funding and resources.
I do not believe there is a simple solution to this problem, but I am certain that when teachers are respected as professionals and are given the room and freedom to plan and shape instruction together, then teachers will remain in the profession and continue to place students and student learning first.

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