A Letter from the President: April 2016

Posted on Apr 28, 2016

Taylor, JuliaOn Monday, the Public Policy Forum released a report entitled “Help Wanted” that examines the teacher pipeline issue in our region. Educator attraction and retention is not a new issue, but it continues to plague many cities throughout the country because of its multifaceted nature. Here are some important pieces that color this complex landscape in Milwaukee:

We’re fighting national trends. These educator trends are not unique to Milwaukee; our numbers reflect national trends. The New York Times recently reported that there is a teacher shortage nationally. Half of all teachers nationally leave the profession after five years. Many urban markets are facing vacancies including Oklahoma City, Providence, and San Francisco. Recently, Hawaii’s state department of education announced they will need to fill 1,600 vacancies for the 2016-2017 school year. Also, Wisconsin is not the only Midwestern state experiencing declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs; Indiana is facing similar issues.

We’re experiencing some demographic shifts. Decreasing enrollment is not only in teacher prep programs. Locally, Milwaukee metro-area colleges have seen a nearly 9.2% drop (7,224 students) in enrollment since the 2010-2011 school year. We believe that this drop is largely the consequence of demographic shifts. There were 15.2 million college students in 1999 and 20.4 million in 2011. The number of Americans turning 18 hit its recent peak in 2009, and will continue to decline through 2017, according to the New York Times. In the state of Wisconsin, youth ages 15-19 showed a population drop of 14,915 from 2010-2015, a 3.7% drop. (Source: UW Applied Population Lab and State of Wisconsin Demographic Services Center)

Still, there exist promising practices here in Milwaukee are already reversing this trend. These efforts work each day to make Milwaukee the top destination for urban educators throughout the region.

The GMC launched Teachtown MKE in 2013 and since then has welcomed nearly 2,500 educators to our urban schools, helped relocate nearly 500 of them to this region and continues to serve hundreds each month in social and professional development activities. In fact, educators that participate in Teachtown MKE activities are 15% more likely to be retained in the classroom.

Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee is a group comprised of our area deans of education who are working to address these issues collaboratively.

Alan Shoho, dean of the School of Education at UWM, is also working to engage local middle and high school students to explore careers in education. His pilot will be launching in fall so stay tuned for some additional information on this exciting initiative.

Americorps education programs such as City Year, Teach for America and College Possible are immersive opportunities for high school and college grads alike to begin their careers in the education field.

Additionally, there are recognized best practices for teacher retention including:

  • Increasing salaries: 97% of teachers who earned more than $40,000 their first year returned the next year, compared with 87% who earned less than $40,000. By the fifth year, 89% of those earning $40,000 or more were still on the job, compared with 80% earning less than $40,000.
  • The power of mentorship: 92% of teachers assigned a mentor their first year returned the next year, and 86% were still on the job by the fifth year. Only 84% of teachers without mentors returned in the second year, declining to 71% in the fifth year.

Milwaukee Public Schools includes both of these strategies for their first year educators. The MPS teacher starting salary is $41,262 and each new educator is paired with a teaching mentor.

We do not want this discussion to end here. In fact, we hope that this is just the beginning; our teacher workforce is one of our community’s most precious commodities. We hope you’ll join us on May 4th for a luncheon, in partnership with the Public Policy Forum, at the Italian Community Center, where we’ll continue this important conversation. The event will begin with a presentation of the new report by the Forum’s senior education researcher, followed by a panel of education stakeholders who will discuss potential solutions. For more details on this event, please click here (registration closes at 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 29).

 

Sincerely,

Julia Taylor
President