A recent report by TNTP brings to light a very real crisis that has been holding back student learning across the country – we are failing to keep the best teachers where they are needed most. Teachers guide and educate our students every day. To many, the best teachers are like super heroes.
In its report, The Irreplaceables, TNTP explains that the real teacher retention problem is that schools do not retain these great teachers. Although the report has received both rave reviews as well as its share of criticism, I think we can all agree that we want our students to have access to the best teachers. Some of the criticism centers on TNTP’s definition of an irreplaceable teacher, which is based on contribution to student learning gains – data that are not available for all educators. (It should be noted that TNTP addresses this concern in the report’s introduction and recognizes that student achievement measures do not provide the complete picture of teacher effectiveness.)
So when we talk about retaining and supporting irreplaceable teachers, let’s be sure that the conversation includes teachers in non-tested subjects and grades. If we were to evaluate super heroes, would we limit super hero status just for those who possess a clearly measurable power such as flight or super strength? Let’s not forget those with the power of the Force – that binding, omnipresent power that gives the Jedi their incredible mental focus and inner strength. Is not Yoda also a super hero and one of the best teachers?
Regardless of how you define an irreplaceable teacher, the recommendations that TNTP outlines for keeping these teachers are powerful and should be considered by policy makers. In short, we need to make the retention of the best teachers a top priority and raise expectations across the board to strengthen the teaching profession. For all the teachers that truly inspire and push students to succeed, there are those that stifle learning and hold students back from achieving what they are capable of. We need to do a better job of keeping our irreplaceable super heroes in the classroom – it’s not a matter of waiting for superman, but figuring out how to keep him from leaving.