Chicago Schools Lose More Than Half of Their Teachers

According to a study by the University of Chicago, the typical Chicago public school loses more than half of all its teachers within five years — and about two-thirds of its new ones.  Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman said Chicago’s overall teacher turnover rate is around the national average.

Teacher churning is especially severe in high-poverty, heavily African-American schools – where half of all teachers disappear after only three years, the study found.

Smaller schools suffered higher teacher turnover than bigger ones, perhaps because “small schools put enormous demands on teachers and can potentially ‘burn out’ even the most enthusiastic new teacher,” the study warned.

Teachers who left low-scoring high schools, meanwhile, often traded up to better-scoring CPS schools, the study found.  A new recent trend is that teachers are more likely to leave CPS than to transfer inside it.

Schools suffering higher turnover were low-scoring, heavily black, high-poverty, or located in high-crime areas.  One teacher who spent her first two years at two high-poverty, heavily black, West Side elementary schools said she struggled with kids who picked up chairs, who screamed in class and threw crayons, who didn’t know how to deal with anger — and parents who didn’t return phone calls. She is looking for another job.

Although Chicago’s Clemente High had its share of fights and gangs, that wasn’t why teacher Dana Limberg left last year for Oak Park-River Forest High School. Limberg was disappointed in her principal’s leadership — another factor the consortium tied to teacher turnover.

How can schools mentor new teachers when one-third of their present staff will not be around next year? The sad truth is that teachers are leaving the field faster than colleges can train them — and few seems to notice.