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Influx of New Teachers Bring Changes to Schools’ Atmospheres
posted by: Cindy Omlin | October 10, 2012, 02:43 AM   

An interesting article ran early last month in USA Today called "More Teachers Green in the Classroom." The story highlights a recent study by Richard Ingersoll at the University of Pennsylvania that shows attrition rates for first-year teachers have risen from about 10% to 13%, leaving a constant demand for new teachers who are usually, unsurprisingly, inexperienced. In fact, in the 2007-08 school year, there is a more than threefold increase in the number of inexperienced teachers. In contrast, 20 years prior, the biggest group of teachers had 15 years of experience. In  the most recent data, the 2007-08 school year, the experience term for the largest group of teachers is one year.

It's been expected that teacher turnover would increase over time with the retiring Baby Boomer generation, so these findings are consistent with that expectation. And the news isn't all bad. In fact, the article shows many positives.

One improvement is the increased use of online communications. Susan Fuhrman, president of Columbia University's Teacher College, commented on this difference in young teachers. "They're going to be much better at technology... [and] going to have grown up digital natives, drawn to technology and less afraid of it than their parents' generation."

Another change is the shift of teachers viewing parents as consumers – a phenomena caused in part by the growth of publicly funded, privately run charter schools. Because more schools run like businesses, teachers are more likely to understand parents' probing questions, says Tim Daly of TNTP, a New York-based non-profit that provides trained teachers to schools nationwide.

New teachers are also more accustomed to standardized testing. Most teachers in their early twenties have grown up with the federal No Child Left Behind Act and are familiar with mandated, annual reading and math tests. "These people came of age in an era when teachers were beginning to be held accountable for outcomes," said Fuhrman. Because of this familiarization, she says, teachers are less likely to be consumed with teaching to the test and can offer a well-rounded approach to teaching.

While every classroom might not have fresh-faced 23-year-old, some teachers are career-changers who have left another workplace for the classroom. Their experiences in these different environments raise their expectations for adequate materials in the classroom and the chance to collaborate with other teachers. "It's good for the profession," said Heather Peske of Teach Plus, a Boston-based non-profit that works to improve teacher quality.

The downside to one in five teachers leaving the profession in the first three years is the instability in the workplace. Schools need to adopt policies that stabilize the information taught to students. "If there's not stability in the teaching force, what is the stability of the information about my child? If their kindergarten teacher leaves after two years, how do I know the second-grade teacher is not going to replicate the same topic?" questions Peske.

One idea to combat these concerns comes from Digital Learning Now! The group released a paper today that examines the benefits of "digital backpacks" for students. The thought is that teachers typically have little access to useful information about their incoming students. A digital backpack would give teachers instant information about student learning preferences, motivations, personal accomplishments as well as an expanded record of achievement – invaluable information for educators in today's high-stakes testing environment.

The issue of significantly more new teachers in schools bring advantages and disadvantages, which deserves attention. Schools and districts need to provide quality professional development and mentoring programs to help new teachers succeed and to ensure that quality teachers stay in the profession.

What is your experience as a new teacher or working with new teachers? What are your ideas to keep quality teachers in the profession?

Comment below.

Originally posted by Alix at AAE

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