Where Have All The New York Schools Teachers Gone?

No one can argue that teachers aren’t important and, next to students, are the lifeblood of any school. So why are so many teachers leaving the profession? New York Schools, while they haven’t lost their entire teaching staffs, are experiencing a high turnover of teachers, just like the rest of the country.

New York Schools, which is the nation’s largest school system, recruited approximately 5,000 new teachers this summer (2007) by the middle of August. They were looking for teachers certified in Math, Science, or Special Education. New York Schools offered a housing incentive that, in some cases, totals $5,000 to be used towards a down payment on a house. The incentive apparently worked, based on the number of teachers hired.

New York Public Schools are also looking outside the world of education for their teachers. Offering subsidies to offset the cost of obtaining a master’s degree, New York Schools hope to attract “mid-career” professionals. They are looking for folks employed in such fields as health care, law, and finance. New York Schools director of teacher recruitment, Vicki Bernstein is looking to hire still more teachers before school begins on September 4th – at least 1,300 to be exact.

In June, one nonprofit group conducted a survey of several school districts across the country to find out how much they were spending annually for recruitment, hiring, and training new teachers. New York Schools were included in that survey. The survey found that New York Schools, among several other districts, are experiencing teacher turnover that’s costing them $7 billion annually.

Retirement is one reason schools are seeing a large departure of their teaching staff. In addition, the hiring of new teachers slowed down in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which raised the average age of teachers. New York Schools says that their wave of such retirements was at a peak early in this decade, but that it did not truly cause a teacher shortage.

However, there are many new teachers hired by New York Schools that become disillusioned with the classroom, and find it hard to stay where they are most needed. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future has calculated that nearly a third of all new teachers leave the profession after just three years, and that after five years almost half are gone — a higher turnover, indeed.

Higher salaries in the business sector, as well as more professional opportunities are also factors in the departure of teachers, even the ones working for New York Schools. Traditionally, more women than men have become teachers, and the possibility of a better salary and the chance to expand one’s career horizons is tempting to many.

Recent Department of Education statistics state that about 8.4% of the nation’s 3.2 million public school teachers quit the field in the 2003-4 school year. Thirty percent of them retired, and 56 percent said they left to pursue another career or because they were dissatisfied.

This explains, for the most part, where the New York Schools teachers have gone. The district is working hard to get them back.

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