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Retaining Teacher Talent

Report 2. Teaching for a Living

Policy Implications

The characteristics and specific views of each group raise important questions for the field. Are the Idealists the best prospects for high-needs schools and for reinvigorating the profession, and what do school leaders need to do to retain them in the field? Given the Idealists’ passion for improving their students’ lives, how can administrators ensure that they have the skills and support to fulfill that goal? More than a third of Idealists voice a desire to move eventually into other jobs in education. How does the field respond to these aspirations?

The Disheartened pose a different challenge. Some may be ill-fitted to the job and ready to move on, but how should the field encourage and support their transition? Others may be good teachers trapped in dysfunctional schools and, in the right environment, might change their views and become Idealists. While these teachers may be helping their students despite their bleak outlook, the researchers point out that it would be hard to believe that these Disheartened teachers are as effective as they could be given their own reports about their situation.

Jean Johnson, an executive vice president of Public Agenda and the director of its Education Insights division, notes that an earlier study with superintendents and principals showed that administrators can fall into two categories: “Copers,” whose main focus is successfully completing the work of each day, and “Transformers,” who aim to change the schools they manage. “One key question from this study is the degree to which the most idealistic teachers could be Transformers, effectively helping struggling students become eager and accomplished learners,” Ms. Johnson said. “Then there are questions about the Disheartened teachers, who generally fall into the coping category. Could good school leadership and better support re-energize them, or would it be better for some portion of them and their students if they found another line of work?” she said.

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