Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Dr. Becker is a veritable garden of information as to what is going on in our educational fields.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, April 26, 2007, p. B 1.

Surveys show frustration among teachers, parents

WHY EDUCATORS QUIT: Lack of support, too much paperwork

By Nanette Asimov and Amr Emam

If working conditions at the middle school where Jim Lammers taught
for 11 years had not been "set up to fail," he might have stuck
around. But like thousands of other teachers across California, the
former Marin County teacher of the year quit the profession in

"I just finally wore out dealing with it the way it was," said
Lammers, who left in 2002 to pursue writing. "Too many kids, and not
enough time to feel like I was accomplishing strong academics. To me,
the system is almost set up to fail."

At a time when California is short of qualified instructors, the
problem of teacher attrition is largely preventable, says a new
California State University study of more than 1,900 teachers.

"Teachers need to be asked to identify features of their work
environment that are problematic and need to be addressed," said the
study's author, Ken Futernick, director of K12 studies at CSU's
Center for Teacher Quality.

Addressing teachers' needs is one of a half dozen recommendations
that the study concludes could lower California's yearly teacher
shortage by 30 percent, or by about 5,400 teachers.

Among the other recommendations is establishing statewide standards
for teaching conditions.

The study cites figures from the National Center for Educational
Statistics that estimate about
18,000 California teachers quit every year.

The purpose of the study was to learn why so many teachers leave --
and what California can do to stop them, Futernick said.

Using a Web-based survey, the researchers interviewed not only
teachers who had quit or were thinking about switching schools, but
those who were satisfied enough to keep teaching.

Futernick concedes that the small sample size -- made smaller because
some questions pertain only to some responders -- means the teachers'
answers are not always reliable measures of all teachers statewide.

But he said the findings are nonetheless helpful in addressing a
vexing problem in the state: How to keep good teachers teaching.

Teachers who stayed reported they felt strongly supported at their
schools, not only by administrators, but by colleagues.

The survey found that many teachers quit because there was too little
planning time, too much paperwork, unreliable assistance from the
school district, and a general lack of support.

More than half of the ex-teachers surveyed said they had quit because
they were dissatisfied with the pay or the conditions at their school.

One was Lammers, a resident of San Anselmo and Marin County's Teacher
of the Year in 1999.

"Marin's a sweet place to teach, so I don't mean to be a moaner and
groaner," he said.

But even in well-to-do Marin County, he said, children have
tremendous needs that aren't always addressed at home.

"More and more children came without family support. Teachers are
required to do many things in a limited period of time. It is simply
not possible to be expert in all subjects, given such limited time. I
rarely got a day off. I worked during weekends and summer vacations.
This exhausted me. I always felt that our kids needed more time," he

Lammers called the issue of teacher retention "a major problem around
the country."

Sherry Jacobs understands what happens when teachers lack the support
they need.

Jacobs, who teaches students with emotional and cognitive
disabilities, worked for a year once at a school where the principal
refused to bring in a psychologist to help with a troubled boy.

"She didn't want anyone from the outside coming into the school,"
Jacobs recalled.

Jacobs went over the principal's head, but it was too late. The day
the specialist finally arrived, the boy became violent, and he and
Jacobs both suffered burns.

"It wasn't the student's fault," she said. "It was the lack of support."

She left that school -- but not the profession.

Today Jacobs is one of the rarest -- and most sought after -- kinds
of teachers in the state: an experienced special education instructor
who is willing to work in a high-poverty school.

She works at Franklin Elementary School in Oakland under Principal
Jeannette MacDonald.

"I've had great support from the principal, from the office, and from
the teachers," said Jacobs, who was among the satisfied teachers in
the survey.

It means that if Jacobs needs to visit a family during the day, or
pick up a parent who can't find transportation to a school meeting,
"the principal will find someone to help cover my classroom so I can
go do that.

"There's a trust there. They look at me as a professional, and it
really makes or breaks whether you stay."
Teacher study highlights

Here are the six recommendations included in the study "A Possible
Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Can Learn":

1. School administrators should continuously assess teaching conditions.

2. California should increase education funding to at least adequate levels.

3. Introduce administrative policies that support teachers'
instructional needs.

4. Principals should focus on "high-quality teaching and learning conditions."

5. The state should establish standards for teaching and learning conditions.

6. Administrators should address specific challenges in retaining
special education teachers.

The full report is at:

Source: "A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All
Students Can Learn"
E-mail the writers at and
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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