Keeping Teachers in School
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is on a roll, pointing out problems with the public schools that could be alleviated by smarter education policy. Here’s an article about teachers who decide to drop out of teaching during their first few years on the job:
Bridgeforth, 28, said he reached a low point at age 22, two or three months into the job at Parkway North High School, when he realized: "Wow, this isn’t for me. I’m not getting paid a whole lot. I’m working 60 hours a week, I have a college degree. I could probably be enjoying something else a lot more."
Bridgeforth has a lot of company. As many as half of new teachers in public schools leave before they hit the five-year mark.
I can think of a few policy changes that could help rectify this situation. First, merit pay would reward new teachers who put in the extra effort and get results. The current pay scale privileges veteran teachers, even when they’re ineffective or, in the words of an administrator quoted in the article, "complacent and bitter."
Second, some form of school choice, be it vouchers, tuition tax credits, or another program, would spur competition for the best teachers of any age. As schools work to attract and retain students, they’ll bid the better teachers away from employers who aren’t on their toes.
Other competitive industries can lure teachers out of teaching. Schools should be allowed to compete for them too.