Education Letter to the Editor

The System Causes High Teacher Turnover

September 11, 2012 1 min read

To the Editor:

To the recent juxtaposition of Lawrence Baines’ excellent analogy comparing education reform with the military and Jordan Kohanim’s poignant essay on why she left teaching, I’d like to add my own perspective (“What If We Brought Education Reform to the Military?” and “Why I Left Teaching,” Aug. 22, 2012).

I have a daughter who lasted only three years (as a Teach For America teacher in Baton Rouge, La., and Harlem), and I still soldier on working with teachers and kids as a consultant in a Chicago high school. From my own and my daughter’s experiences, I conclude that, if almost 50 percent of your employees quit every five years and you need the ones remaining to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, there is something wrong with the system.

Instead of the military comparison, try business. High turnover (that 50 percent that Ms. Kohanim mentions) is a key sign of bad management. Overworking the staff you have is a sign of inefficiency and incompetence. In short, it’s not the teachers who are the problem—it’s that they have to work within a dysfunctional context.

Bruce Taylor

Chicago, Ill.

A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2012 edition of Education Week as The System Causes High Teacher Turnover