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Retaining Teacher Talent

The View From Generation Y

Policy Recommendation 6: Work to design and implement a set of differentiated career options for teachers to increase retention in and satisfaction with the field.

The data collected for this study indicate that 98 percent of Gen Y teachers plan to stay in the field of education for the entire trajectory of their careers. Yet, of that 98 percent, only roughly half plan to actually remain in the classroom for life. Teachers who do not plan to remain in the classroom made statements such as, "I enjoy teaching, but I want to explore other facets of education." Research suggests that many young teachers choose to leave the profession not because they are ineffective, but because they feel stifled. Policymakers would be wise to begin envisioning some alternative pathways within the field of teaching, pathways that would provide intelligent, creative, dynamic Gen Y talent with the types of ongoing new challenges and opportunities that members of Gen Y seek.

This innovative approach to the educator career continuum has been adopted by school districts and other stakeholder groups alike. The approach taken by the Teach Plus program of the Massachusetts-based Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy is to promote teacher retention by increasing the teachers' voice in policymaking. By facilitating collaboration between teachers and policymakers, Rennie Center staff help to mobilize teacher advocacy for the profession, connecting teachers to innovative opportunities, developing differentiated roles and pay systems, and providing relevant decisionmakers with high-quality research and technical assistance.10

On the district side, officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, recognized that some teachers highly valued their long summer vacations, whereas other teachers were more eager to receive more competitive levels of compensation. In 2005–06, they decided to differentiate roles for their teachers while introducing new, creative opportunities to develop a culture of professional learning communities.11 Teachers in Fairfax County now have the option to extend their contracts an extra nine days, for roughly $3,700; 14 days, for roughly $5,400; or 24 days, for roughly $10,000. The salary increase includes pay and benefits. Those with extended contracts are trained to serve as teacher-leaders in their schools, working to facilitate collaborative teams, and, ultimately, to increase student and teacher learning.

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10 See http://www.renniecenter.org/ for more information.
11 Butz, L. (September 2, 2009). Cluster VI Assistant Superintendent in Fairfax County, Virginia. Personal communication.

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