Expert: Retention strategies could help teacher shortage

Teacher turnover plays a larger role in the national teacher shortage than it gets credit, a national expert on teacher retention and training said Tuesday during a forum on teacher recruitment and retention.

Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, added that the majority of teachers who leave the profession are dissatisfied with working conditions, resulting in more people leaving than are being recruited into classrooms.

“We need to get the diagnosis right,” he said. “We also need to be talking about improving retention.”

More than 200 attended the "Building the Teacher Pipeline" forum Tuesday in the Georgia-Pacific Center Auditorium. Organized by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, the conversation touched on what is being done in education programs as well as school districts to improve retention efforts and better prepare teachers.

Ingersoll said recruitment isn’t the solution to filling classrooms. According to information from the 2011-2012 school year, 343,955 teachers were hired ahead of the school year, but 531,340 left after the school year ended.

Unhappiness with school administration, teaching assignments and accountability/testing played a role in the high turnover, with nearly 56 percent of teachers citing dissatisfaction in a study using teachers from 1993 to 2003.

“It’s not about the person,” he said. “It has to do with the schools.”

Studies have shown teacher turnover having significant impacts on student achievement, and contributing to a national teacher shortage of about 60,000 teachers.

Ingersoll said evidence shows teachers who felt they were heard by school administrators when addressing issues were more likely to be retained.

“If you want to improve that, you’ve got to cut down on some of the dissatisfaction,” he said. “If we fix those, we cut down turnover, we improve student learning.”