Carnegie Report Examines Lack of Experience in the Teacher Workforce

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Receives Funding to Rethink the Carnegie Unit | Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of TeachingA new report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching highlights the causes for and consequences of a relatively inexperienced teacher workforce, as well as promising practices in response to this reality.

The high number of inexperienced teachers in public school classrooms is a largely unrecognized problem that undermines school stability, slows educational reform, and, new research suggests, hurts student achievement. These are among the conclusions of a new report on beginning teachers by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More than one in five teachers today – about 750,000 – have five or fewer years of experience. Experts consider teachers at this stage of their careers to be still learning their craft. The report, “Beginners in the Classroom: What the Changing Demographics of Teaching Mean for Schools, Students, and Society,” explores the causes and consequences of a less experienced profession, and it looks at some promising ways of addressing the problem, including intensive mentoring and residency programs.

Novices are leading so many classrooms not only because of greater demand for teachers, but because so many teachers in existing jobs are leaving before they become accomplished educators. Although the recent recession slowed the exodus somewhat, teacher turnover rates are exceptionally high. In many urban districts, more than half of teachers leave within five years. And teachers abandon charter schools at especially high rates, a significant problem given the growing presence of charters in many metropolitan areas.

The report, by Carnegie Senior Associate Susan Headden, concludes that money, or lack of it, is not the primary cause of teacher attrition. Teachers leave largely because of a lack of administrative support – poor professional development, insufficient emotional backing, and scant feedback on performance.

Many principals don’t track teacher turnover, the report finds. And the critical issue of fit – looking beyond competence to compatibility – is often overlooked, especially by school districts that scramble to fill spots even after the school year has already started.

“Beginners in the Classroom” examines these and other issues, and it highlights three types of induction programs that show promise for keeping new teachers in the profession and helping them to become better faster.  

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