NEW YORK— As members of the Class of 2012 join the work force or look to higher education, a new report illuminates the connection between poor STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teacher retention rates and young Americans’ chances of being relegated to low-wage, low-skill jobs that offer little economic security or opportunity. According to national policy center Demos and the New York Academy of Sciences, addressing the multitude of reasons teachers leave is essential to creating the quality STEM education, from kindergarten to high school and beyond, necessary for today’s economy.
“Support, Collaborate, and Retain: Strategies for Improving the STEM Teaching Crisis” explains how school culture and working conditions often play a larger role than compensation in affecting teachers’ decisions to leave their jobs. It shows how markedly low retention rates affect current and future students, school systems, and the economy at large.
In an effort to go beyond outlining problems, “Support, Collaborate, and Retain” emphasizes practical solutions to the issues surrounding teacher dropout, including administration, job autonomy, relationships with fellow teachers, and professional development. The report provides proactive recommendations for each group that is a part of, or works with, the education system, including administrators, teachers, policymakers, and teacher educators. These recommendations center around the following themes:
“Our experience and the findings of this report show that administrators, teachers, and other interested individuals can make a huge difference in developing and retaining talented teachers,” said Julia Rankin, one of the report’s authors. Rankin is a former classroom teacher and past Director of K-12 Science for the New York City Department of Education and for the Bridgeport, Connecticut public school system.
“Current efforts to improve STEM education are limited by schools’ ability to retain good teachers. We have demonstrated that our nation's very best students are willing to become teachers. But once teachers are in the classroom, they often experience poor workplace conditions, lack of support from peers and school leadership, and pay that does not reflect their qualifications or amount of work. Without solving the retention crisis, America has little chance of making a dent in the education crisis,” said Meghan Groome, report co-author, former classroom teacher, and current Director of K-12 Science Education at the New York Academy of Sciences.
“It’s the responsibility of individuals, government, and business to rebuild a strong middle class, and quality education is an essential part of achieving the American Dream,” said Jennifer Wheary, co-author and senior fellow at Demos. “With 70 percent of future new jobs coming in the STEM fields, young people, regardless of class or race, must have access to the education they need, and we should do more to encourage, support and sustain the STEM teachers who are helping our next generations achieve the American Dream.”
For more on Demos' education and student work see our "2012 Graduation Week" series.