Young Teachers Moving On In Milwaukee Schools

Teaching in the Milwaukee Schools is not all that some think it will be. Young teachers there have one of the highest turnover rates in the nation. According to some in the Milwaukee Schools, there are several reasons for this rate.

One of the main reasons for this high rate within the Milwaukee Schools is the residency rule. Milwaukee Schools require that teachers reside within the city. At first, for young teachers, this does not seem all that bad until they are actually living in the city and cannot move. As they get married and start families, many want to move to the suburbs, but can’t.

Many teachers sighted other frustrations with the Milwaukee Schools as their reason for leaving. However, all agreed with the National Commission on Teaching report that states that high turnover affects the overall education of our students. Almost all said the story of the idealistic, eager, newcomer who doesn't last very long in the job is far too familiar. Of the 50 largest school districts in the US, only Milwaukee Schools and Chicago Schools have this residency rule. It has long been a bone of contention with teachers, but always received strong support from politicians.

Young teachers get into the Milwaukee Schools because they are anxious to start their careers but, again, they begin starting families and realize they will be forced to live in the city and to send their children to those Milwaukee Schools unless they make other arrangements or pay for private schools. Many feel that the Milwaukee Schools are filled with bad influences and the neighborhoods are filled with crime. So, these teachers from Milwaukee Schools move on to other districts in the suburbs, and some on to other careers.

Other teachers from Milwaukee Schools cited frustrations more directly related to schools and classrooms as the main reason they moved on. One first year teacher, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, tells about a particularly bad year at one north side school. She was hired to teach first grade, but also had some five-year-old kindergarten students in her classroom. She was not given her mentor until January, and was given absolutely no support from school administration. She felt she had been left alone to sink or swim. And this is not an isolated experience.

That is not fair to the students of Milwaukee schools. Most first year teachers cite school leadership and the lack of support as a main source of either frustration. Some teachers in Milwaukee schools that are not properly administered say they spend their entire day breaking up fights and issuing discipline instead of teaching. It’s hard to imagine how the Milwaukee Schools can provide for their students, when they still can’t support their teachers.

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