04/08/2011

Report Looks at Keeping Gen Y Teachers in the Profession

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Generation Y report cover 

Generation Y teachers—those in their mid-30s or younger—say that to keep them in teaching, schools should be transformed into workplaces that support high-quality teaching and learning, so eager but nearly overwhelmed novices will stay in the profession and can become highly effective, according to a new report by the AFT and the American Institutes for Research.

The AFT and AIR spoke with Generation Y teachers about what can be done to stem the tide of young teachers leaving the profession. The report is based on 11 nationally representative teacher surveys, seven focus groups with Gen Y teachers, and three case studies (in St. Francis, Minn.; Austin, Texas; and Philadelphia). Young teachers say they want feedback on their performance and to be evaluated in a fair way; they need time to collaborate with their colleagues; they support differentiated pay for high performance; and they want to use technology to provide engaging and effective lessons, as well as to support collaboration with other teachers through, for instance, videos and conferencing technology.

"We asked our new teachers what they need to help grow the next generation of teachers. They told us loudly and clearly that they need the tools, resources and working conditions to make teaching a lifelong career," says AFT president Randi Weingarten. "High-quality education simply cannot be sustained with the high teacher-turnover rate we're seeing today."

According to "Workplaces That Support High-Performing Teaching and Learning: Insights from Generation Y Teachers," (www.aft.org/pdfs/teachers/genyreport0411.pdf) Gen Y teachers account for at least one in five teachers in U.S. classrooms today. They start out intending to make teaching a lifelong profession. However, according to the report, teachers under 30 leave teaching at a rate 51 percent higher than older teachers and transfer to a different school at a rate 91 percent higher than their older colleagues. Studies also show that the national teacher-turnover rate costs school districts approximately $7 billion annually.

To make the most of the next generation of teachers, to advance teaching and learning, and to nurture future leaders in the profession, the report concludes that policymakers and leaders of school districts, individual schools and teachers unions must work together to transform the way most schools in the United States now operate.

Gen Y teachers say they need schools that:

  • Provide regular feedback to teachers on their effectiveness.
  • Have fair, rigorous and meaningful evaluation systems.
  • Support peer learning and shared practice.
  • Recognize and reward high performance.
  • Use technology intelligently to enhance performance.

Highlights of the report


Regular feedback

"Gen Y teachers' desire for frequent feedback on the effectiveness of their instruction signals that they hold high aspirations for their students' learning, a confidence that they can learn and improve, and a fair amount of uncertainty about the practice of teaching," the report says, noting that the teachers believe feedback "cannot come simply in the form of an end-of-the-year summative evaluation or without reference to teachers' actual impact on student learning."

Case Study: Education Minnesota St. Francis has taken an unprecedented lead in reforming the talent-development policies and practices for its 300 members. It helped create the Student Performance Improvement Program, which includes a Teacher Academy that provides teacher-led, research-based, ongoing, job-embedded, required professional development; performance review teams of management and teacher leaders; mentors for all teachers during their first three years; a system of teacher leadership positions; and an alternative salary schedule that offers teachers higher pay based on performance and leadership positions, rather than on years of experience and degrees alone.

Fair and valid teacher evaluations

Gen Y teachers say they want frequent and meaningful feedback to see if they are on track, but they have serious concerns about how they are evaluated and how administrators use the evaluations. Studies show Gen Y teachers are even more skeptical than their baby boomer colleagues about using standardized achievement tests as a measure of student learning.

"Those seeking to build high-quality workplaces will need to create enhanced evaluation systems that not only meaningfully differentiate between teacher performances and provide useful feedback to teachers on their effectiveness, but are also professionally credible," the report says, pointing to the AFT's teacher development and evaluation model

Case Study: The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' latest contract includes provisions to transform the way teachers are selected for schools, evaluated and supported to ensure success. The district will use a peer assistance and review system to evaluate new, nontenured teachers and struggling tenured teachers; implement a site-based selection process for hiring, assignment and transfer decisions; improve professional development; and establish a new compensation program. It already has a mentoring program for new teachers.

Recognizing and Addressing Performance Differences

Gen Y teachers generally support rewarding teachers based on performance but want it done fairly. They want their union to take the lead in negotiating a way to add performance as a consideration in salary decisions, and they say failure to reward teachers for superior effort and performance is a drawback to the teaching profession.

Case Study: Education Austin and the Austin Independent School District are rewriting how teachers are compensated and how teachers work together in their schools. Austin's compensation program, called REACH, ties teacher pay to student learning and provides teachers with professional development opportunities to support their success. Teachers receive additional pay if they do any of the following: meet teacher-developed, principal-approved student learning objectives based on common assessments; work in a school that scores well on the state standardized test; work in a high-needs school; participate in certain professional development opportunities; and work as a mentor to new teachers in a high-needs school.

"Generation Y teachers want to stay in the profession and make a difference. Building humane, high-performing workplaces today will ensure that this next generation of teachers and their colleagues evoke extraordinary levels of learning among all their students and build a stronger teaching profession tomorrow," the report concludes. [AFT press release]