NCTAF Releases Report on Impending Wave of Teacher Retirements and Solutions for Districts Facing Departures
- By Christine Beitenhaus
- April 1st, 2009
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) recently released Learning Teams: Creating What’s Next, a report detailing an impending wave of teacher retirements and new solutions to address the supply of teachers in our nation’s schools.
According to the report, more than 50 percent of public school teachers and principals are Baby Boomers, resulting in what could be a loss of one third of teachers to retirement over the next four years. This situation is particularly an issue in 18 states and the District of Columbia. In one dire example, West Virginia, 68 percent of the public school teachers are over fifty.
Currently, the average age for teacher retirement is 59.
“We cannot recruit our way out of this problem,” explains Tom Carroll, NCTAF president and author of the report. According to a U.S. Department of Education survey, beginning teacher attrition rates have risen steadily for over a decade. Up to a third of new teachers leave the profession within their first three years of teaching. Some districts replace half of their new hires every five years.
High teacher turnover results in sporadic and unequal quality teaching, which particularly results in problems for high-poverty schools working to close the achievement gap. Recruiting new staff also eats up valuable resources. Carroll adds, “The era of a single highly qualified teacher in every classroom is over.”
The NCTAF proposes the adoption of cross-generational learning teams, which would allow “flexible retirement” for Boomer teachers and reduce new teacher attrition rates. Cross-generational learning teams will help districts weather a large number of veteran teacher retirements and stem the loss of such a number of highly qualified teachers from classrooms nationwide.
Learning teams create a space where the knowledge and expertise of veteran teachers can be passed on to new teachers, allowing for support and engagement on both ends. The NCTAF’s report also discusses the cost-effectiveness of a collaborative teaching environment and the ability of cross-generational teams to accomplish more together than alone.
Overall, the NCTAF makes some policy suggestions to help districts stem losses from Baby Boomer teacher retirement. Included in the NCTAF’s suggestions are:
- Restructuring pay systems so that “salaries and incentives are competitive in the current job market,” rewarding teachers and principals for performance and achievement, not just for how long they’ve taught;
- Examining out-of-date retirement policies based on moving teachers in their 50s out of the classroom;
- Offering chances for veteran teachers to contribute in part-time positions; and
- Creating the opportunity for collaborative learning teams, which will benefit both those who are retiring and those who are new to the teacher workforce.
In order to transform schools into a 21st century education system, creative and different thinking is needed. The innovation of cross-generational learning teams help prepare new teachers for their careers and will create a new role for veteran teachers in their schools.
To read the complete report from the NCTAF, visit their Website at www.nctaf.org.