The manufactured crisis

It's back-to-school season, which means it must be time for a prominent news outlet to decry the teacher-turnover "crisis." Enter the New York Times, whose front-page story quotes all the usual suspects saying all the usual things. "The problem is not mainly with retirement," explains the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. "The problem is that our schools are like a bucket with holes in the bottom, and we keep pouring in teachers." Perhaps that's true, but with a national attrition rate of eight percent, is teaching really any worse than other professions that attract lots of 20-somethings (see here)? Some contend that fewer teachers might even be a good thing. Nor is this challenge insurmountable. Some districts are taking common sense steps like offering bonuses for teachers in high-need fields or high-poverty schools. But others keep tripping over their own impenetrable hiring bureaucracies and minimal support for new teachers (who need more mentors like this). Tim Daly, the new president of The New Teacher Project, explains, "There isn't any maliciousness in this, it's just a conspiracy of dysfunction." Indeed.

"With Turnover High, Schools Fight for Teachers," by Sam Dillon, New York Times, August 27, 2007