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Why New Teachers Quit 

Former CMS Educators Tell Their Stories and Offer Solutions

Page 3 of 8

Problems With the Plan

In a recent report published on its website at www.cms.k12.nc.us, CMS shared with the public its proposed solutions to meet its 2005 goals regarding teacher recruitment, retention, and deployment. Although the plan isn't an official part of the district's Goals 2005, CMS spokesperson Jerri Haigler says that the strategies presented in the plan will move the district forward in achieving its academic achievement goals.

The total plan, not including two solutions yet to be determined, will require a little over $4 million in funding -- and a miracle, considering that CMS Superintendent Dr. James Pughsley expects to lower the attrition rate from 2001-02's 19.31 percent to 15 percent by July 2003 and 10 percent by July 2004. To CMS's credit, the turnover rate has decreased over the past three years from approximately 22 percent in 2000-2001 to 19 percent in 2001-2002 to 16 percent in 2002-2003, one percentage point off the goal. Still, Dr. Pughsley's dream of 10 percent turnover by next July will remain just that until he chooses to listen to precisely the people he's trying to understand.

There are four major kinks in CMS's mission -- not to mention a few gray areas where money could be reallocated to something useful such as, say, buying needed Bunsen burners or maybe replacing novels whose covers have been torn off. For instance, do we really need to spend $72,333 dollars to hire an analyst who will maintain already-teamed CMS analysts but will reorganize them by elementary, middle, and high school levels?

The first major problem is Dr. Pughsley's limited transfer plan, which CMS sees as an answer to the recruitment problem. CMS recruitment planners want to decrease the flexibility teachers once enjoyed when choosing where to transfer within CMS because, they say, it delays new teacher placement.

Haigler says, "The change in the transfer policy was administered this year to assist with equity throughout the district. Our goal in CMS is to have top quality teachers throughout the district. Even with the transfer limitations, teachers still had a number of options to transfer in every choice zone within the district."

While the plan sounds innocent, the real victims are the teachers. Twenty-six schools were closed to teacher transfers for the 2003-2004 school year. While CMS officials may think teachers are merely upset because they can't switch to the system's top schools, Charlotte Teachers Association President Judy Kidd says teachers don't want to leave schools just to get away from a low socioeconomic status. Like any other normal professional, they seek the opportunity to shorten commute times, gain more managerial support, or to work with different materials. With any type of restriction, those opportunities become limited. Whether the CMS limited transfer plan helps equity or not is debatable, but there's no doubt that barring teachers from 26 selected schools will hurt Pughsley's goal of retaining teachers who are already onboard. Kidd, in fact, says she knows of several experienced teachers who might leave if the district denies them the freedom to better their circumstances. These are casualties CMS can't really afford.

The implications of the limited transfer plan are possibly farther reaching than Pughsley imagined. Take this scenario, for example: A mere two weeks before school opens, a principal finds out that one of his longtime Advanced Placement teachers must resign due to serious health problems. Normally, he would turn to a qualified pool of teachers within the system; however, since he works for one of the plan's closed schools, he may only turn to the pool of new teacher applicants or to an already overloaded staff member who may or may not be qualified to teach the material.

The second problem concerns CMS' 2005 retention goals. Since a large portion of the new teachers who leave lack complete licensure, CMS wants to help them get it in a quicker, less costly way; therefore, CMS is proposing a voluntary two-week boot camp.

Haigler says, "The two-week teacher camp, which began on June 24, is designed for lateral entry teachers who have the subject matter expertise but lack the classroom experience and training. This two-week camp will provide lateral entry teachers with the skills they need to be successful in the classroom."

Perhaps the camp will provide them with enough skill for the first day when students are too nervous to misbehave, but a crash course can't replace a year or more of quality teacher preparation. And since studies show that a major factor in a new teacher's decision to quit is lack of preparation, CMS will actually be increasing the odds for their two-week trainees to flee the school system come Fall.

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