A recent study found that more than half of young teachers plan to make teaching a lifelong career, and many more plan to stay for a long time. Yet half of new teachers leave urban classrooms within three years, just as they are beginning to have the strongest impact on student learning. That is a terrible loss for low-income students, whose classrooms experience the greatest churn. I founded Teach Plus to improve the achievement of urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to excellent, experienced teachers.
So what is driving great early-career teachers away? For a large proportion, it is a lack of leadership opportunities. As ambitious teachers master their craft, they discover that all growth paths lead out of the classroom. That is why Teach Plus engages thousands of solutions-oriented teachers in leadership opportunities that help transform the profession for a new generation. We are giving teachers a reason to stay.
The time for this transformation is now. After decades in which Baby Boomers made up most of the teaching force, more than half of teachers in the U.S. today have 10 or fewer years of experience. They are the New Majority. These early-career teachers' views are markedly different than those of the Baby Boomers, who will retire by the millions in the coming years.
By and large, the media has ignored this sea change in the teaching profession. In the media's portrayal, teachers hate tests and find accountability to be unfair. Yet among the New Majority, it is much more common to find teachers who want to know their impact on student learning and have their success recognized. They want to see data about the progress their students are making on the curriculum they teach. They want good information that leads to opportunities to improve their practice. In polling Teach Plus has done in three cities, 96 percent of teachers agree with the statement, "I believe that clear, measurable standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession."
The New Majority is ready to be heard. The teachers associated with Teach Plus are already stepping up to tell policymakers what they think, and succeeding in changing minds and changing policy -- all while doing what they love most: teach. They know from experience what it will take to ensure that all students get the high-quality education that they deserve. This blog will be a place for their stories -- stories that are happening in real classrooms right now. We would all be wise to listen. Young people's futures depend on it.
By Celine Coggins, founder and CEO, Teach Plus