3-19-99 NEWSLETTER                                                           PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE:     


"Teacher shortage may be worse than thought" read the headline in the Duluth News-Tribune, Wednesday, March 10, 1999. "Teachers who call it quits cause concern" was the lead to a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune the very same day. 1.A report released by the Center for School Change states that teacher shortages in some areas may be worse than anticipated, not because of increases in retirements, but because so many teachers are leaving the field.

At the Education Minnesota Governing Board meeting March 4, Co-President Judy Schaubach reported that 30% of the nations teachers leave teaching within the first five years. Others stated that about one-third leave during the first seven years. Perhaps many persons would assume that this is in large part due to some 2.teachers coming to realize that teaching is not the right profession for them. It may be that they are not having a lot of success, or earning a lot of money, or having a lot of fun. They may not have been properly prepared for the reality of teaching in the modem classroom. Could it be that universities do a poor job of preparing prospective teachers for kids who threaten, parents who sue, administrators who don't support, communities which complain and politicians desiring to meddle? Is there a chapter in the pre-teaching textbook dealing with how to learn to accept kids who swear at you? Is there no section in Education 1023568-006321 dealing with how to report an assault. Maybe it's due to poor preparation, or reality, or pay. A large percentage of teachers opt out after only a few years. We really aren't that surprised.

We are surprised to learn that three-quarters of Minnesota teachers leave before retirement. Wow! Even 3.Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change (not to be confused with the Center for School Improvement) was startled. Said Joe, "This is one of the most surprising, stunning and startling studies I've ever worked on." I'd go him one better. I think it's frightening.

What does this study tell us about the teaching profession? Why do so many people leave? Joe Nathan does not profess to have the answer (one of the few times he'll admit this). He suggests that teachers may leave because of salaries that are too low by the standards of a booming economy and a growing bureaucracy represented by the new Profile of Learning Graduation Rule. Gee, this comes to us from a true champion of the Grad Rule and a frequent critic of teacher salaries. He also suggests that the state ought to come up with ways of improving teacher preparation to avoid classroom failures that can drive teachers out of the classroom. Beyond this, he has no clue. 4.Good grief! This guy claims to be an expert on education. He is someone who left teaching. You would think that he would have some idea of what every teacher knows.

What do we know that Joe and the other experts cannot seem to grasp? 5.The best part of teaching is the reward one gets from sharing knowledge and imparting skills to kids. Sometimes you feel like you've done some real good. However, that same warm fuzzy feeling can quickly dissipate when some kid threatens you, or swears at you, or just walks off when you are talking to him or her. It's hard to feel that your class is important when a lot of kids just don't show up, or are excused to be a part of something more important. How easy do the experts think it is for teachers to open the paper in the morning to find yet another article critical of public education?6. Have they ever had to listen to their own (now former) superintendent criticize the same system of education which he represents?


7.Have they watched in horror as their school board helped create a for-profit school to take their students and jobs? It isn't much fun to listen to the latest political, education, expert, candidate for President, or Governor, or dog catcher expound on vouchers.

Teachers know that for the last fifteen years public education and teachers have been under attack.




8."The Nation at Risk" started it, The economy was bad so the experts blamed teachers and public education. Today the economy is great. Where does the credit go? It goes to big business. Those who attack us make headlines. Those who support us are all too often given little mention.

Salaries do play a part in teachers both not actually entering education and leaving early. With a good economy there is a lot more competition for talented people. Many people feel that salary is a reward both for skills brought to a job and success on the job. 9.Starting pay for teachers does little to attract the best and the brightest and top salaries do not keep people in the profession.





10.How many other professions have to go through what we go through to get the raises we receive?



11.Negotiations season is equated with open season on teachers. We often feel that instead of being given a teaching license we should be given a target. Every goofball group in the community gets to take shots at us. 12.The folks at Northwest Airlines don't have to contend with the FIGHT (does it actually stand for Figure I'll Go Hate Teachers?) people. When we do get a small raise we are immediately blamed for causing reductions in budget and programs, thus hurting kids. 13.The radio talk shows are jammed with callers anxious to expound on how little we work, the lack of our accomplishments and the extent of our greed. If we were paid enough to justify the treatment we receive, a lot of teachers would still quit.

The Grad Rule may play a part in causing teachers to leave, but not to the extent that Mr. Nathan believes. Sure, it is for the most part, a crock. It does guarantee confusion and expense rather that learning and improvement. I still don't think that it is the main reason teachers leave the profession. After all, it hasn't been around long enough to explain the mass exodus. For great many teachers the Grad Rule/Profiles of Learning is more of a last straw.

A few paragraphs ago I stated that I felt that the results of the study were frightening. They should be. The question is what does this tell us about teaching when three-quarters of teachers leave before retirement? If we were dealing with any other profession, there would immediately be some sort of blue ribbon panel or task force established. What if this percentage of doctors was quitting? How about airline pilots, or engineers, or computer programmers? Would the nation be at risk? What is at risk here are our teachers. What is at risk here are our students. What is at risk is public education. 14.People like Joe Nathan should know. After all, they are the "Experts."

Frank Wanner, President

My Reply:




1.The teacher shortage is a concern. It is however cyclical following demographic shifts in the population.  Now that baby boomer teachers are reaching retirement age its not surprising that a shortage is about to develop. It is not news that large numbers of teachers leave the profession. This was the case when I started teaching two decades ago.  Back then the cry was "burn out."   Teachers found the job difficult and burnt out.


2.This is the beginning of a long litany of grievances. Everybody hates us. Nobody likes us. We're gonna go and eat worms.













3.Cheap shot.












4.Cheap shot.






5.I agree.







6.This is how many of our teachers felt that Supt. Myles talked about them. I warned Mark that his message was not being taken the way I think he meant it which was that we still had a lot of room for improvement and that we were working hard to improve. Mark Myles is history now. I wonder how long Mr. Wanner will want to continue harping on his tenure?

7.I'd like Frank to tell us the names of the teachers who lost their jobs. I'd like to know why Frank (who teaches economics among other things) thinks "profit" is a dirty word. I'd also like to know if Frank resents the possibility that the Edison school might be a better school for some children. I don't send my children to Edison because our 709 schools are great but not all our kids thrive. I wonder if Frank will follow this complaint about teacher burnout with column bemoaning our 20 percent student dropout rate?

8.I agree that "The Nation at Risk" was alarmist.   Most people don't realize how much better our schools are today than in the past. I'm not sure that everyone agrees that its Big Business that saved our economy.





9.Until this last contract our School Board let the teacher negotiators decide where on the pay grid new money went. Since the negotiators were all older teachers its not surprising that very little new money went to new teachers. Yet, after shafting the new teachers Frank Wanner had the gall to blame the School Board for the low pay of our new teachers. Last November our School Board demanded that more money go to the new teachers and it did.

10.Two years ago Doctors across the nation earned, on average, less than the year before. I'll bet they feel managed care has made their lives a lot more burdensome. Lots of businesses suffer bankruptcy.  The grass always looks greener.....

11.Some School Board members felt like negotiations meant open season on them as well.


12.I recall Northwest Airlines getting pummeled in the Twin City press when state money was spent for it to expand in Duluth and the Iron Range.

13.If you listen to talk radio you only have yourself to blame for getting ulcers.



















14.Another cheap shot