Thursday, April 7, 2011

Former Chancellor Black Gets a Hands-On Lesson About Educator Retention

In her New York 1 Interview earlier this year, the inexperienced, and now former, education chancellor Cathie Black had no empathy for educators who leave our system in droves.  Now that she’s one of them, perhaps, she’s learned an important lesson about those whose footsteps she is following in. Black clearly hadn’t done her homework last January before responding to New York 1 Reporter Errol Louis who asked if she was concerned about the appalling attrition rate of teachers in New York City where about 25% of leave within 3 years and that percentage doubles at the 5 year mark.

In an ever so cavalier response Black said this.
Teaching is a hard job. We want the ones who are committed. We want the ones who make a difference. We want the ones who want to work hard and really change the lives of these young people. They’re there on a mission. So, you know, some are going to leave.
It didn’t matter (or wasn’t worth investigating or even pondering) why these teachers left. To Black it was because they weren’t committed, didn’t want to work hard and  had no interest in changing the lives of young people. I thought of all the passionate, committed teachers like the one I recently wrote about here, who want to make a difference, but quit because they aren't able.  Perhaps if Cathie Black put in her time as her staff is required to do she would have understood that our teacher retention issue isn’t the result of weeding out the uncommitted teachers who have no interest in making a difference.  Rather those who leave are often our most qualified, like New York teacher of the year, John Taylor Gatto, who declared in his resignation published in the Wall Street Journal that he was no longer willing to hurt children.


The fact is that most teachers report they leave because of the lack of support, resources and dismal working conditions to which they are subjected (Alliance for Excellent Education). These teachers see no hope for change. Sadly, the best and brightest teachers are often the first to leave. (National Center for Education Statistics). What are left in many cases according to the Teacher Pathways Project Research Paper are the less-qualified teachers who are more likely to stay at a school than teachers with higher qualifications, “especially if they teach in low-achieving schools.”


Hopefully as she walks out the door today, the embattled Black will realize that the decision to leave the system is not as black & white as she once thought.  Now that her mission is over, and she joins the ranks of NYCs fallen educators, I wonder if she labels herself as someone wasn't committed, didn't want to want to make a difference and didn't care to change the lives of young people. 

You can visit the full interview complete with additional blunders and patronizing comments toward educators here.
Black explains why NYC schools are better off without those who resign.
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