Willie Carver, Kentucky’s 2022 teacher of the year, is fed up and is leaving teaching. Two months ago Carver testified before Congress regarding LGBT issues, and he was articulate and impressive in his dedication to the job of educating children. He has given 17 years of his life to teaching. He is one of the best. And he is leaving the profession. And he’s not the only one. More than half of teachers nationwide are looking for a way to exit teaching, including many like Willie Carver who’ve been teaching for decades. It really looks like a vicious cycle

Why are we losing so many good teachers when we can least afford it? States and school districts are becoming desperate and the solutions implemented to cover the gap left in our teaching staff are questionable at best.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing nearly 3 million educators, conducted the poll referenced above which found that teachers were looking for ways to leave the profession. They wanted to understand the exodus. Teacher burnout came in first, but is integral to the vicious cycle. Teachers have left schools, leaving other teachers to pick up the slack. 

The question is “How can we stem the tide of teacher resignations?” Luckily, the NEA survey included that question and raising educator salaries was at the top of the list. 

This is doable. The U.S. Departments of Education and Treasury has recently pointed out that non-education, federal COVID relief (ESSER) funds, including the $350 billion allocated in the American Rescue Plan Act for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), can be used for this purpose. Many school districts have been doing just that but other districts are slow to make that kind of commitment because these are one time allocations, and salary commitments are not easily walked back in future years. Although it does not seem clear why the ESSER money shouldn’t be used as a retention bonus.

In addition to pay and general workload reduction, one of the other requests was for less standardized testing. We have known that it is a very poor metric for measuring student knowledge, and we have also known for some time that it has a negative effect on teachers. Why is it so hard to shake?

We have to trust the teachers and trust the kids. The only way to create trust is to find a way to put trust back into the system. We can reduce standardized testing, using other ways to uncover how much students are learning like sampling or game based assessment. We can give teacher retention bonuses.

Nothing is going to change overnight but if we keep losing teachers and putting more and more pressure on the teachers and administrators who remain, something is going to change and we will all suffer the consequences.

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