Imagine you’re a new teacher on your very first day of school about to invite your students in for a year of learning. In addition to the preparation in instruction, assessment, classroom management and content you studied to earn your certification, think of how many other things you needed to learn in order to get to that first day moment: how to take attendance in the school system, which platforms to communicate with parents, what type of technology is available, learning the background of your students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504s, etc.
The journey as a new teacher is so much more than the preparation involved in earning certification. Districts, schools, building administrators and teams invest precious time, energy and resources to “on-board” new teachers to be successful in their school and classroom environments. If a teacher leaves the profession in the first few years of teaching, both the time invested in preparation and on-boarding are lost.
Research shows the first years for a new teacher are critical for keeping them in the profession. Teacher turnover is not only expensive, but according to recent studies, it can also be detrimental to overall teacher effectiveness in the building, and most importantly, can negatively impact student learning. According to an NCES longitudinal study, public school teachers in their first four years of teaching are 40% more likely to leave the profession than the average public school teacher.
There are currently 28,214 people who hold instructional certificates in Idaho, but as of Dec.31, 2021, there were a total of 17,813 teaching positions. This means there are currently over 10,000 certified teachers who could be teaching in Idaho. These numbers suggest retention may be impacting our teacher pipeline more than recruitment, which is often cited as the primary problem in Idaho.
In order to truly address the teacher pipeline crisis that’s often cited in Idaho, we need to start talking about ways to meaningfully support new teachers in order to retain them, rather than investing time and resources into recruiting teachers into a system they’re likely to leave in a few years. Some of these solutions can include expanding the partnerships our teacher preparation programs already have with Idaho’s school districts to support new teachers with induction and new teacher programs. Other solutions include systemic changes in order to set teachers up for success by providing them with appropriate compensation, class sizes and mentor support either in person or virtually from other parts of the state.
The good news is that Idaho’s teacher preparation programs across the state reliably produce about 1,200 teachers each year through a range of in-person and fully online traditional, non-traditional, alternate route, and emergency certification options. Knowing we have a surplus of teachers in our state, now is the time to shift our discussions around the teacher pipeline from “we have a recruitment problem” to “we have a retention problem.” Let’s work together to shift our priorities to keep our new teachers in the classroom, and provide Idaho’s students with the best opportunities for learning and success.