Once a premier place to teach, Anchorage finds it hard to retain educators
A program aimed at retaining new teachers will expand to nearly 70 schools within the Anchorage School District by 2020.
On average, ASD loses 10 percent of their teachers on a given year due to attrition, according to chief of human resources Todd Hess. The factors include retirement, teachers quitting, moving or leaving the district for somewhere else.
"On an annual basis, we see a 10 percent turnover on new teachers as well," Hess said. "So if we hire 200 teachers in any given year, five years from now, we'll expect about 100 of them still employed in the Anchorage School District."
The school district was awarded a $300,000 Great Public Schools Grant from the National Education Association in 2018. Under the funding guidelines, $100,000 will be given to the school district in each of the next three years to help fund the teacher induction program.
Together, the Anchorage Education Association and ASD applied for the grant.
"We know the early years in teaching is often the most difficult," AEA president Tom Klaameyer said. "In order to keep as many in the profession as we can, we need to make sure they are supported enough in order to make teaching a career."
The program is starting in 15 schools this year and hopes to add 50 to 60 more schools the following year before including all schools in the district in the third year. Each school has a building liaison to help new teachers learn the lay of the land and the culture of the school.
West High School teacher Katrina Quinn said there are plenty of things she wish she had known when she moved to Anchorage from out of state three years ago.
"Everything from where's the bathroom to how's my evaluation," Quinn said. "Can you help me with a lesson plan? I didn't know how to work these copiers. I didn't know where the staff bathrooms were, little things like that just add stress onto your new curriculum and your new place of work. Going out together to relax and exchange ideas."
In addition to difficulties keeping teachers, the number of people going into teaching is dwindling. With supply not meeting demand for educators, school districts around the country are offering lucrative benefit packages to attract teachers.
"When you're competing with other places like Washington state — they just got a huge funding boost from their legislature so districts across that state are giving 15 to 20 percent raises," Klaameyer said. "Their beginning and ending salaries are now higher than ours in places with lower costs of living. Washington and Minnesota also have a defined retirement benefit system."
Hess with ASD said spending money to keep teachers will save money in the long run.
"With tight budgets, anytime we can reduce costs that is important," he said. "Continuity in the classroom for students is important. Reduced recruitment costs, all of those things."
If the district can reduce attrition by even one percent, Hess said ASD would consider it a success.
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