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Speaker: Teacher turnover high

The teacher shortage in the nation’s public schooling system is a “case of wrong diagnosis and wrong prescription,” said the economics department’s Green Chair lecturer Thursday evening.Richard M. Ingersoll, a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, said the problem with teacher turnover is not retirement or increased student enrollment, but retention rates.

His data shows that most teacher hiring is done to replace those who left the field within the year of being hired.

Ingersoll said he conducted his research on teacher shortage using the largest sources of information on teachers in the world: the Schools and Staffing Survey and its supplement the Teacher Followup Survey. The sample was taken from 55,000 teachers from 12,000 schools all over the country.

On average across the nation, secondary- and elementary-level schools lose an average of 15 percent of teachers, according to his data; however, about half the turnover comes from teachers who move jobs and are not leaving the field completely.

“It’s unusual for a researcher like myself to pay attention to the movers,” he said. “They may not create shortages as a whole for the profession, but they create shortages for each individual school district.”

Ingersoll described the turnover like a revolving door. His research shows that in one year, about half a million teachers enter the field but a little more than that leave the field.

This revolving door phenomenon negatively affects important aspects of schools, such as coherency, continuity and community, he said.

To his surprise, Ingersoll said he found in his research that 46 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years.

Although he said the turnover rate in Texas is about average, it still costs a couple hundred million dollars to keep up with it.

“If we don’t ever get the diagnosis right, how will we ever get the prescription right?” Ingersoll asked.

When Ingersoll polled teachers about the various reasons that influenced their turnover, he said he was surprised to see only 14 percent of respondents cited retirement.

“The retirement results are shocking because past data has told us retirement is increasing, but it’s been totally exaggerated,” he said. “As far as I can see, retirement is only a small piece of the problem.”

His research showed that 36 percent of teachers studied left the profession to pursue other jobs. Fifty percent were dissatisfied with their jobs.

Ingersoll said he is hopeful the country can do something about teacher turnover.

According to his research, teachers answered that too little preparation time, a heavy teaching load, poor salary and large classes were among their main reasons for leaving the field.

Sixty-four percent of teachers polled answered that a better salary would encourage them to remain in the teaching profession.

Terry Buckner, who works in the Human Resources department of the Fort Worth Independent School District, was applauded by the audience when she said the turnover is a result of people thinking the teaching field will be easy.

“The problem is that people think anyone can teach, but it’s very difficult,” she said. “It’s really as difficult as sending a rocket to the moon.”

Kristin Klopfenstein, associate professor of economics, invited Ingersoll to speak at TCU as a Green Chair.

“I study the economics of education, and I cite Dr. Ingersoll in a lot of my own research,” she said.

Emily Henry, a senior mathematics major, attended the speech for an economics course.

“I thought his research was very interesting and informative; however, it seems like there is not really a solution in sight,” she said.

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