Solving the Problem of Retention

Mentor working with Mentee

Mentor working with Mentee on Performance Measures…a very real possibility today.

There are a great deal of exciting changes taking place in every possible field today due to the increased capabilities of technology. One of the most important changes in education? Well, I wouldn’t blame you if the first thoughts that came to mind were improvements aimed at students: amazing games, tools, resources, communication capabilities, etc.. But the greatest change we can effect using technology may be in the improvements aimed at educators. The most specific goal?

Keeping them.

A recent blog post from recognized leader in talent management, Cornerstone On Demand, (READ IT HERE), points out something that those in education have known and been concerned about for quite a while. RETENTION is the most difficult aspect of keeping the “educator bar” high. Lately there has been a lot of focus on teacher performance: ensuring that sub-par teachers receive the support and feedback that they need in order to improve while also ensuring that high-performing teachers receive the attention, and in some cases compensation, that their performance warrants, as well as placing them into leadership and mentorship positions.

And while many of us have debated the best ways to determine the quality of a teacher’s performance, with some models including student test outcomes, mentor evaluations, administration evaluations, and even student evaluations as part of the overall equation, one of the most significant questions is this: How do we keep from losing the new teachers that we’ve worked so hard to recruit in the first place?

Statistics show 20 percent of all new hires leave the classroom within three years, while in urban districts, close to 50 percent of newcomers leave the profession during their first five years of teaching. That’s a huge loss and it occurs so early that we have little ability to determine if we are losing some of our highest performers (or those with that potential) simply because…

Well, why IS this happening?

That’s an important question. Clearly there are two possibilities:

1.) There are pressures on new teachers that are so onerous that they do not make the job “worth it” to the person and he/she opts to leave the profession.

2.) There is inadequate support to bridge the gap between the concepts and knowledge taught in college and the skills and attitudes necessary to the actual practice of teaching.

Given that these new teachers have taken the time to study education and devote themselves to the discipline to the point that they earned their degrees and subsequently arrived in the classroom and gave it (forgive me), “the old college try,” the SECOND possibility seems like the most likely. Fortunately, this can be addressed.

That’s why Cornerstone’s argument for the benefits of talent management are so well-timed and relevant. What’s even more compelling is the idea that talent management in education must take on a specific form, beginning with human capabilities, experiences, and skills that are then leveraged and supported by technology. It cannot be just one pillar, such as professional development, or performance evaluation, or mentoring, or learning communities, that make up “talent management,” it must be all of these. In the past bringing all of these seemingly disparate pieces together, gathering large amounts of data, and making the most of it to give precise and relevant feedback and support would have been impossible. Even more so doing on a large scale.

But now we can ask questions such as: How can the “best practices” of educators in Los Angeles Unified help to inform the practice of educators in upstate Maine, and vice versa? And, “Where do our similarities create strength? What about our differences? How can we take differences in practice and better apply them to differences in students?”

A well-conceived and multi-faceted talent management program can address all of the things that worry us:

  • teacher recruitment (Wouldn’t you rather work for an employer who has supports and resources in place to help you to succeed?),
  • teacher retention (Wouldn’t you want to know exactly how you can achieve more in your profession?), and
  • teacher performance (Does this one need explanation?).

The point here is that technology is not a panacea, it’s a tool. It helps us to identify problems, as well as find solutions. In this decade, talent management will become the true magnetic center of the, “better teachers, better outcomes” mission, I believe, and technology will play a central role in making our efforts effective.

– Rachel Fisher, Program Director

[tags] K-12, Education, Technology, Talent Management, Cornerstone [/tags]

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