Teacher retention rates—the proportion of new teachers who remain in the profession after their first several years—are low across the nation. Huge numbers of new teachers leave the field within several years. Some critics, like this one, argue that inadequate preparation in university teacher education programs is the reason.
BC’s Lynch School has one such program, but with very different outcomes. Based on data from students who graduated between 2009 and 2011, 88% of Lynch-educated teachers remain in education after three years, vs. 30% of new teachers nationally. This huge difference begs the question of why Lynch graduates stay in education at such increased rates.
Lynch offers specific programs, like the New Teacher Academy, that can help keep teacher retention rates up. Perhaps the most effective way that LSOE accomplishes their high retention rates, however, is in its thorough curriculum for future teachers.
Lynch offers undergraduate programs at the elementary (grades one-six) and secondary (grades eight-12) levels. Students in these programs pursue a major in their chosen level of education plus a second major. Student teaching practicum experiences, known among Lynch students as “pracs,” are a highly valued part of the program. All education majors have to complete three semesters of weekly “pre-pracs” in different schools and one semester of a “full prac,” which consists of full-time student teaching. Notably, this amount of student teaching is not common to all undergraduate education programs. These experiences are also accompanied by courses about teaching methods, assessment and psychology.
Dom Rosato, LSOE ’17, completed his first pre-prac at Brighton High School last semester and said of it, “I’m really happy about all the field experience I’ve gotten, the amount of actual time I’ve got to spend working with students…and then I think that’s paired up really nicely with the more theoretical… what the purpose of education is, what are we trying to teach, how do you construct a lesson plan.”
Rosato said he sees himself remaining in education, noting, “It has a high skill ceiling in that you can’t really ever master the job, and I think that can be part of the reason why it scares a lot of people off.”
Jocelyn Lividini, LSOE ’15, also had high praise for the preparation she has received in Lynch. As a senior, Lividini has completed all her pre-pracs and her full-time student teaching. Though she believes it is impossible to fully prepare yourself before entering a classroom, she feels that BC has prepared her as well as is possible. She also offered her opinion as to why BC students have such high retention rates: “I think we come out with an outlook of we’re going to deal with a lot… and you’re just going to have to deal with it, and then through your experiences and through learning… get better over time.”
The dilemma of low teacher retention is not as easily solved as one might believe. Teachers have to deal with all types of challenges, many of which cannot be taught in a college setting. It is a foundational belief in Lynch that context is important, and perhaps addressing those contextual challenges would make for higher rates of teacher retention.