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Low salaries may be part of the problem, but they are not, as many
might expect, the main catalyst that is spurring the flight. Teachers
"know coming in that their salaries are not going to be high,"
says Megan Franke, director of the UCLA Graduate School of Education
& Information Studies' Center X, which specializes in urban-teacher
preparation. More often, teacher attrition is associated with a
lack of support from administrators and feelings that they have
little or no control over their professional lives.
At Moffett Elementary, Gallandt worked under a supportive principal,
JoAnn Isken '75, Ed.D. '76, who is a faculty adviser for Center
X's Teacher Education Program (TEP). But over the years, Gallandt
says she came to believe that the world outside the school system
neither appreciates nor understands the demands that are placed
on urban teachers and schools.
Mandated curricula, state standards and annual standardized testing
sound like fine ways to boost student achievement and make teachers
accountable. But children do not learn in lock step, Gallandt argues.
Some learn quickly, others slowly. Some are visual learners, others
auditory. Some kids have parents who read to them every night, others
grow up in bookless households. When teachers are given little latitude
to be creative or tailor their lessons to the specific needs of
their students, it is a formula for frustration.
Teachers, Isken says, are "caught between the demands of the
policymakers and the reality of the child."
She spoke of a fourth grader who enrolled at Moffett in February
but was unable to read in any language and could write only his
first name. "Policymakers expect this child in the month of
May to take a fourth-grade exam and . . . perform on this exam at
a level of proficient or above," Isken says. If the child fails
the exam — which is more than likely under the circumstances
— it is a black mark against the school, and the teacher.