In the report's attempt to address the issue of teacher retention, the report wrongly blames teachers and union contracts rather than the true culprits—poor recruitment and preparation, poor working conditions, and lack of support and leadership in school systems—for the failure to retain high quality teachers.
An opinion-editorial by NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle
With the release of its new report, The New Teacher Project has helped focus attention on one of our nation's most valuable assets: the dedicated professionals who educate our children.
The National Education Association agrees that attracting and retaining great teachers must be a top priority, and it will only become more urgent over the next decade, when we'll need 1.6 million new teachers, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Given the scope of this challenge, a narrow focus on peripheral issues, such as seniority, is a distraction from the hard work at hand. This challenge requires us to work together and hold everyone accountable for the success of our children -- not only educators but also principals, parents and the public officials who provide resources. Every teacher has an impact on young lives, so NEA members are working through local affiliates to ensure that every teacher is "irreplaceable."
One needed change is raising the quality of preparation before teachers enter classrooms. No school should wait until a budget crunch to identify struggling educators. Our students can't afford it, and our educators deserve more. Teacher evaluation must be meaningful, multifaceted and fair and involve all teachers throughout their careers. We must improve and redesign teacher evaluation and support systems, giving teachers a shared leadership and partnership role with principals, administrators and policymakers. Teachers who don't perform up to standards must be given time, support and feedback on instructional practice to improve. Those who receive that opportunity and still fail to meet standards should be counseled out of the profession.
Attracting and retaining great teachers is one of the most important challenges we face. We can do it if we work together and put the needs of students first.
USA TODAY published this op-ed in response to a teacher retention report by TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project) entitled “The Irreplaceables,” which studied student growth data or valued-added results for approximately 20,000 teachers.
Summary of Report
On July 30, 2012, the New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a report entitled The Irreplaceables. The report was a study of 2,100 schools and 90,000 teachers (largely elementary and middle school,) and 1.4 million students in four urban school districts. They examined the student growth data or value-added results for approximately 20,000 of these teachers. They used the data to identify teachers who performed exceptionally well (by helping students make much more academic progress than expected,) to see how their experiences and opinions about their work differed from other teachers’ – particularly teachers whose performance was exceptionally poor.
“Irreplaceables” are defined as teachers who are so successful that they are nearly impossible to replace, but too often vanish from schools as the result of neglect and inattention. On average, each year they help students learn two or three additional months’ worth of reading and math compared to the average teacher, and five or six more compared to low performing teachers.
Key Points From The Report
The real retention crisis is a failure to retain the right teachers. The report cites three primary causes for this crisis:
1. Principals make far too little effort to retain Irreplaceables or remove low-performing teachers.
2. Poor school cultures and working conditions drive away great teachers.
3. Policies give principals and districts too few incentives to change their ways.