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The most vexing issue facing education today
is not recruiting and training enough qualified teachers to fill the
nation's classrooms. It is keeping them there
By Anne Burke
AFTER 14 YEARS AS AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER,
Lynn Gallandt was physically and emotionally spent.
She adored her first graders at Moffett Elementary School in Lennox
but felt that the expectations on teachers were too great, and she
no longer believed that she could measure up. Though Gallandt desperately
wanted to give her kids the individualized attention they needed,
the constant pressure of maintaining discipline, being a surrogate
parent, and meeting the challenges of mandated curriculum and standardized
tests left little time for anything else.
"I just wanted to be in the classroom teaching," she
says. "I just wanted to get in there and teach."
Each day brought some new disappointment, and it ate away at her
self-confidence. As she drove home to Long Beach after work, she
would think, "I'm not doing any good for anybody."
With three young children at home, the veteran teacher made the
difficult choice in 2000 not to renew her contract for the coming
fall. By quitting elementary education, Gallandt became another
statistic of a crisis that is undermining the nation's educational
system: the flood of talented, experienced teachers who are walking
away from their careers.
The conventional wisdom holds that burgeoning enrollments, smaller
class sizes and retirements have led to an acute shortage of teachers.
But researchers have found that the real crisis is not one of supply
but retention. Teachers are abandoning their classrooms at an alarming
rate. Each year, more leave than enter the profession. In 2000-'01,
the nation's schools lost in excess of 287,000 teachers —
55,000 more than had been hired the previous year, for a net loss
of 24 percent, according to education researcher Richard M. Ingersoll
of the University of Pennsylvania.
In the 2003 report "No Dream Denied: A Pledge to America's
Children," the National Commission on Teaching and America's
Future likened the problem to "pouring teachers into a bucket
with a fist-sized hole in the bottom."
The dilemma is a critical one for the state, says California Superintendent
of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "You don't just want
to constantly keep recruiting teachers on the front end of the pipeline
if you're losing them at the back end of the pipeline," he