Collaborating to Solve the STEM Teaching Crisis

For most K-12 students, the school year has just ended or is about to end. While the kids head out for vacation, a good number of their instructors are deciding whether or not they will return to teaching in the Fall. Teacher turnover is a costly national problem. It takes about $3 billion each year to replace K-12 teachers who leave, according to a conservative estimate by the Alliance for Excellent Education. In addition to the financial costs of having to replace teachers and retrain new ones, high teacher turnover is associated with lower student achievement.

REPORT: Support. Collaborate. Retain: Strategies For Improving The STEM Teaching Crisis

Teacher retention is an issue that cuts across subject areas, but it dramatically affects the learning of science and math. Math and science teachers are the most likely to leave the teaching profession altogether due to job dissatisfaction, and math and science teacher turnover has increased by 33 percent over the past two decades.

One of the most often-cited reasons for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) achievement gap is a lack of skilled and trained teachers. The greatest percentage of under-qualified teachers at the K-12 level is found in STEM disciplines. Forty percent of high school math teachers and 20 percent of science teachers in high needs areas lack a higher education degree in the subject they instruct.

Support, Collaborate, Retain, a new report by Demos and the New York Academy of Sciences, shows that while physical working conditions, lack of access to basic resources, and student demographics create major challenges for teachers, school culture plays a large role in teacher retention. Level of teacher autonomy, the amount of professional respect and the amount of administrative support found within a school all greatly affect whether teachers stay or go.