U studies find high teacher turnover in upcoming years

by Erin Ghere

University researchers announced Friday that schools will need to replace half of Minnesota’s teachers during the next five years, but that finding replacements could be difficult.
The conclusion — based on two studies compiled by the College of Education and Human Development and the state’s Department of Children, Families and Learning — was announced at a Friday morning forum at the Bandana Banquet and Conference Center in St. Paul.
Drawing from several sources, the study’s conclusions were threefold, said Steven Yussen, dean of the College of Education and Human Development and one of the main researchers.
During the next four to five years, Minnesota will need to replace almost 5,000 teachers each year. Since there are currently about 48,000 teachers in the state, half of the current teaching force will be replaced in the next five years, according to the study.
“That’s a lot of turnover,” Yussen said. “That’s 10 percent a year.”
Additionally, school districts are finding it difficult to fill positions in special education, math and science, and vocational and industrial technology.
A report this summer in Education Hotline proclaimed the nation’s special-education teachers were quitting in “droves.”
The report determined that many special-education teachers are “disillusioned by (their) job, which demands more time and energy than teaching in other fields — usually without any more pay.”
In addition, the report said special-education teachers have to fill out time-consuming paperwork and deal with legal issues, driving teachers to transfer into regular education programs or leave the profession altogether.
While University researchers knew school districts were having difficulty finding teachers in special education and other areas, they were surprised by the study’s last finding, Yussen said.
Researchers were also not expecting schools to have difficulty filling elementary-school vacancies in foreign language, English as a Second Language, librarian and art positions.
To aid school districts in searching for new teachers, researchers came up with several recommendations, including:
ù Offering financial incentives — including hiring bonuses and monetary rewards if the teacher stays in their position for three or five years, the point when many teachers become disillusioned.
ù Establishing mentorship programs and other services for newly hired teachers to help them through their first two years. The study found that some such programs exist in the state, but they are inconsistent and poorly organized.
ù To circumvent the problem of hiring underqualified educators in emergency shortages, the study suggests schools hire community experts — college graduates with some teaching experience, retired teachers or college professors. These educational consultants could teach part time or for limited terms until permanent, qualified teachers are found.
ù Lastly, researchers suggested establishing a state advisory group to monitor teacher shortages. The group could include policy-makers, legislators, administrators and educators.
“There’s a lot of interest in this,” Yussen said. More than 100 people attended Friday’s forum, including educational experts, state policy- makers, members of Education Minnesota and Lt. Gov. Mae Schunk.
A follow-up meeting is planned for November.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at 612) 627-4070 x3217.