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It's Not Brain Surgery!

Why teachers leave and why they stay

Nobody enters the teaching profession for the money.

We are called to teach by our love of children, our reverence for knowledge, and our desire to make a difference.

Money is not the main reason cited by most who leave the profession, either. The majority of teachers who quit do so because they are frustrated and unhappy with their working conditions.

It doesn't have to be this way. All new teachers are bound to encounter some disappointment, but if they are treated with respect and given the tools they need to do their jobs, they can retain their dedication and passion for education.

Unfortunately, too many teachers don't get the respect they deserve or the resources they need. That's why almost one out of every five public school teachers will change jobs this year, and almost half of today's new teachers will leave the profession within five years.

The exodus of teachers from our profession poses a critical challenge to our nation's public schools, and NEA is working hard to meet this challenge. We can't do it alone, though. We need the help of local school districts, state lawmakers, parents, and community leaders who share our vision of a great public school for every child. With their help, we can give educators the kind of support that will make their classroom experiences rewarding for them and their students.

This is already happening in hundreds of school districts around the nation, where local NEA affiliates have formed innovative partnerships to support new teachers. Over the past decade, 68 of these programs have been recognized for their excellence with the NEA-Saturn/United Auto Workers Partnership Award.

All of these programs have been tailored to the specific needs of their communities, but the best ones have certain things in common.

First and foremost, district officials treat professional educators as allies, not adversaries. We are given a seat at the table and a voice in the process. The experience of our members is valued, and our ideas are incorporated into the programs and policies of the districts.

Another thing these programs have in common is a focus on meaningful training and mentoring for new teachers. Meetings between new teachers and mentors are regular and ongoing, and the mentors in most cases receive some kind of compensation.

Finally, the most important thing these programs have in common is the results they achieve. New teachers who participate in these programs are more confident in the classroom. Retention rates are higher—virtually 100 percent in some of these districts. And student achievement has improved.

These programs showcase Team NEA at work and confirm that when teachers are given respect and treated as partners, we can make their jobs more fulfilling and rewarding. When that happens, they stay in teaching, benefiting their schools, their communities, and most importantly, their students.

-NEA President Reg Weaver
Photo: Calvin Knight

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