As we officially begin the second full week of summer, schools have been on break for more than a month. While various people and entities reflect on the past school year and continue planning for the next, I want to draw attention to the issue of teacher attrition. Within the industry, we know that it is a problem and that it affects students, schools and communities in many ways. However, we need to recognize that it is not solely an economic issue; countless factors affect the employment decisions made by teachers and many of those factors can be addressed by school districts.
Data exists to support a variety of different interventions that Alaska school districts could use to target the high rate of teacher attrition experienced within our schools each year. Attention should be given to the 2016 study out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, by Ute Kaden, Philip Patterson, Joanne Healy and Barbara Adams. This study involved a survey of teachers from 10 rural school districts and revealed important findings related to the prevalence of teacher attrition factors in Alaska. One illuminating piece of data from the study is that of the teachers surveyed, only “(48%) felt integrated into their communities.” This data, like other findings in the study, is important because it is incredibly actionable; school districts could alter this perception through rapid interventions, with minimal financial costs. We may not have an endless supply of economic resources, but we do have a highly educated and creative workforce. Rather than blaming teacher attrition on economic issues that are challenging to address on the local level, we should direct some of our attention to the factors that we can work on immediately.
This is a call to action. We need to get creative about teacher retention in Alaska.
— Vincent Kane
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