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“From My Classroom to My Colleague:” Improving Teacher Retention

Researchers studied nine cities — Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Cleveland, Los Angeles and San Francisco — to identify trends and found a bleak picture. They discovered people of color being hired at higher rates but leaving the education profession in significantly greater numbers than their white colleagues.
The results, unsurprisingly, are a growing teacher shortage and an expanding diversity divide in our nation’s cities.
“We’ve reached a crisis in urban education,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said at September press conference to release the report. “As a first step to turning this around, we are calling for a national summit on teacher diversity in urban areas,” she added. 
Click here to watch the report release press conference.
The high attrition rates in the cities examined were generally attributed to the working conditions at the mostly high-poverty schools where minority teachers were more often assigned. Notably, the Institute’s researchers found high turnover among all staff at such schools, regardless of its employees’ race or ethnic background.
According to the study, nearly 19 percent of teachers of color left their jobs after the 2011-12 school year, exiting the profession or pursuing a position at another school.
Fifty percent said they left because they were dissatisfied with their employment situation, reporting poor workplace conditions, student discipline problems and large class sizes.
Notably, the Institute’s researchers also found the representation gap to be more pronounced in schools operated by charter management organizations (CMOs). The finding is significant considering that 30 percent of new hires in the report’s dataset were placed in charters, a sector that has grown considerably in recent years.
Click here for national press coverage of the report.
“Recruiting and retaining high quality educators from all racial and ethnic backgrounds is about more than achieving workforce diversity,” said AFT Connecticut Secretary-Treasurer and veteran state technical high school teacher Ed Leavy. “It’s about making sure our schools are equipped to help solve our state’s jobs crisis,” added Leavy, who also serves as president of our affiliated State Vocational Federation of Teachers.
Increasing numbers of students are finding high quality career and technical education (CTE) as a pathway to rewarding, family-sustaining work in the 21st century economy. Research finding that CTE graduates earn, on average, 16 percent more than their traditional high school peers was recently reported in an ongoing study that began in 1993.
“We need our own students to see teaching as a legitimate profession,” said Joshua Hall, a long-time educator in Hartford Public Schools. “Recruiting and retaining educators from the community has enormous potential to lift up struggling cities like ours. When my students go from my classroom to being my colleague, they rise into the ranks of the middle class and help build a stronger economy,” added Hall, who serves as vice president of our affiliated Hartford Federation of Teachers.
Thirty-four percent of families in Hartford live below the federal poverty line. The city’s nearly nine percent overall unemployment rate is twice the national average; for Blacks and Latino residents in Hartford it’s even worse at 15%. 
Thanks to the advocacy of union members in AFT Connecticut and our public education allies, the General Assembly has begun to take steps toward addressing these issues. 
Legislation passed during the 2015 session created an 11-member task force to study and develop strategies to increase minority teacher recruitment and retention. The new law also requires the Office of Higher Education to submit a report on the quality of existing teacher preparation programs and to propose future improvements.
Click here for press coverage of the governor’s signature of the legislation into law.

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