NEW REPORT: School Culture and Conditions as Important as Compensation in Retaining STEM Teachers

The Academy and Demos present “Support, Collaborate, and Retain: Strategies for Improving the STEM Teaching Crisis.”

Published June 14, 2012

NEW YORK, June 13, 2012 — As members of the Class of 2012 join the work force or look to higher education, a new report illuminates the connection between poor STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teacher retention rates and young Americans' chances of being relegated to low-wage, low-skill jobs that offer little economic security or opportunity. According to national policy center Demos and the New York Academy of Sciences, addressing the multitude of reasons teachers leave is essential to creating the quality STEM education, from kindergarten to high school and beyond, necessary for today's economy.

"Support, Collaborate, and Retain: Strategies for Improving the STEM Teaching Crisis" explains how school culture and working conditions often play a larger role than compensation in affecting teachers' decisions to leave their jobs. It shows how markedly low retention rates affect current and future students, school systems, and the economy at large.

In an effort to go beyond outlining problems, "Support, Collaborate, and Retain" emphasizes practical solutions to the issues surrounding teacher dropout, including administration, job autonomy, relationships with fellow teachers, and professional development. The report provides proactive recommendations for each group that is a part of, or works with, the education system, including administrators, teachers, policymakers, and teacher educators. These recommendations center around the following themes:

  • Creating more robust professional networks for teachers,
  • Identifying opportunities for professional growth,
  • Giving teachers a role in school-wide decisions, and
  • Strengthening ties between teachers and STEM professionals, as well as between teachers and scientific and cultural institutions.

 

"Our experience and the findings of this report show that administrators, teachers, and other interested individuals can make a huge difference in developing and retaining talented teachers," said Julia Rankin, one of the report's authors. Rankin is a former classroom teacher and past Director of K-12 Science for the New York City Department of Education and for the Bridgeport, Connecticut public school system.

"Current efforts to improve STEM education are limited by schools' ability to retain good teachers. We have demonstrated that our nation's very best students are willing to become teachers. But once teachers are in the classroom, they often experience poor workplace conditions, lack of support from peers and school leadership, and pay that does not reflect their qualifications or amount of work. Without solving the retention crisis, America has little chance of making a dent in the education crisis," said Meghan Groome, report co-author, former classroom teacher, and current Director of K-12 Science Education at the New York Academy of Sciences.

"It's the responsibility of individuals, government, and business to rebuild a strong middle class, and quality education is an essential part of achieving the American Dream," said Jennifer Wheary, co-author and senior fellow at Demos. "With 70 percent of future new jobs coming in the STEM fields, young people, regardless of class or race, must have access to the education they need, and we should do more to encourage, support and sustain the STEM teachers who are helping our next generations achieve the American Dream."

To view a copy of the full report, visit http://bit.ly/LNUK9F

MEDIA CONTACTS
NYAS: Diana Friedman
, 212.298.8645, dfriedman@nyas.org
Demos: Lauren Strayer, 212.389.1413, lstrayer@demos.org


About Demos
A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development and advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze change. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in New York City, Demos works with advocates and policymakers around the country in order to address economic and democratic inequality. Visit us at www.demos.org.


About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org.