Lower teacher turnover needed to close achievement gap

By Chris A. Roegge

I applaud the zeal and civic-mindedness of the recent alumni featured in Alissa Groeninger’s article on Teach for America (Sept. 4), and wish them success. There is much debate – fueled by conflicting research results – over the effectiveness of “alternative route” teacher preparation programs such as TFA.

I am not writing to engage that debate, but rather to point out the commitment of the 500-600 U of I alumni each year who graduate from programs in which they are certified to be teachers, school leaders, school librarians, school social workers and school speech/language pathologists.

It is worth noting that one of the most pressing problems in education today is the nearly 50 percent turnover rate of classroom teachers within the first five years of their careers. It is very difficult to improve and sustain achievement levels in the face of such turnover. While some TFA teachers do indeed remain in the classroom, most leave after fulfilling their two-year commitment to pursue other careers. The students in our professional education programs choose a career in education and complete a rigorous preparation program that combines college course work with many hours of practical experiences in P-12 schools. Progress in closing the achievement gap will rest largely on their shoulders.

Chris A. Roegge

Executive Director

Council on Teacher Education

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign