ALBANY, N.Y. January 8, 2007 - New data showing greater numbers of "highly qualified" teachers is promising, but ensuring that the best teachers are at the front of every classroom will take a greater emphasis on teacher recruitment and retention, New York State United Teachers said Monday. NYSUT called on state leaders to use some of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity money to expand the pool of highly qualified teachers ready and willing to work in hard-to-staff schools.
"New York's teachers are among the best trained, well prepared and highly educated in the nation. Yet, we know there are classes still being taught by teachers without the appropriate certification, and that there is room for further improvement. We need to start by ensuring districts hire fully qualified teachers, and that there is a much greater emphasis on teacher recruitment and retention," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira added, "Working conditions also matter - a lot. There is a clear connection between poor working conditions and high attrition rates in hard-to-staff urban and rural schools."
In New York City, for example, new data from the United Federation of Teachers shows some 41,000 teachers have quit the system since 1999. "Just as these new teachers are gaining the experience and know-how to consistently improve student achievement, they are handing in their resignation papers and the school district must start all over again," Neira said.
"Closing the achievement gap hinges to a great degree on improving recruitment and retention. Getting the best teachers to work in urban and rural schools is as simple - and as complicated - as making these schools more attractive places for them to raise their families and build their careers," Neira added. "Too often, we hear the sad news about good, young teachers quitting in frustration over the lack of administrative support; lack of resources; and a lack of a voice in decision-making. They also tell us they want more manageable class sizes, better salaries and respect."
Among other reforms, Neira called on the governor and Legislature to increase the Teachers of Tomorrow program and build upon incentives for teachers who agree to work in hard-to-staff geographic areas and subjects such as math, science and special education. The state must also invest more in helping school districts to implement high-quality induction and mentoring programs, and fund effective professional development programs that support teachers' work to close the achievement gap.
NYSUT represents 575,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.