The State Superintendent of Idaho has a blog.
This shouldn’t be of any concern to me, as a teacher in WY, however one of his posts that I came across really irked me. In it, he essentially states that there are a few teachers choosing to leave Idaho for other states. Many teachers, according to Supt. Luna, are rather choosing to leave due to “personal reasons”, which could be anything, from “choosing to stay at home with the kids” to “finding a different profession”. He concludes that, while the turnover rate may seem high, it is likely due to the economy and the state should continue to pursue performance pay and technology integration in the classroom, as those are the ways to keep educators in Idaho’s classrooms.
For the record, I was raised in Idaho, attended schools in Meridian and Boise, and graduated from the University of Idaho (B.Mus and M.Mus). I have numerous family members who teach in Idaho, and almost all of my family lives in the state. I have never taught there, taking my first teaching job in Oregon (better pay), and moving to Wyoming after my master’s degree (double Idaho’s pay!!!).
I do have some advice for Supt. Luna on how to address the issue of teachers leaving the state, however.
1) Quit trying to spin this to hide the fact that teachers are leaving your state as quickly as they can. Start looking at some independent sources, such as NPR, who says that teachers and professors are in the top 5 groups leaving Idaho. Or look at Washington State’s Spokesman Review, whose article title of “Idaho Teachers Leaving in Droves” probably says all that is needed.
2) Quit trying to use this exodus as a justification to push more bad ideas, such as merit pay, which has been shown to be a poor method for motivating employees. Don’t take my word for it, though. A simple Google search brings up an article reference from that fly-by-night diploma mill known as Harvard University. Too bad there aren’t other articles saying pretty much the same thing.
3) Spend some time in a classroom. Now, by “spend some time”, I don’t mean a highly sterilized visit to a select few classrooms. I mean teach. Pick a subject, and try teaching for a day. A week. A month. See what happens when the new wears off and all that you’re left with is your personality, teaching experience, and subject knowledge. If you lack teaching experience, it can be very, very hard to engage students. Anyone can sound intelligent and engaging for 10 minutes to a select group of people. All the technology in the world can’t hide incompetence and inexperience for long.
4) Finally, if you want people to stay in your state to teach, start treating them as if they are highly valuable and irreplaceable resources. In your statements to local new station KTVB, you state that, while many teachers have left, the rate of issuing new certificates has risen, so the number of certified staff in schools has remained mostly constant (certified staff aren’t always the same as teachers, but I’ll let that one go). Even if the number of teacher bodies in the classroom has remained constant (which I doubt), there is a big difference between a class run by a first year teacher and a 5-, 10-, or 15-year veteran. I look back on my first year (a success by many measures) and wish I could go back and teach those kids again. I had great groups, but it took me time (years of experience) to learn how to get the most out of students. I am finishing my 9th year teaching and am still figuring new things out. Don’t try and make it sound like all is fine. The only reason parents aren’t outside the Capitol building with torches and pitchforks is because it takes years for the effects of your policies to truly be felt, at which point I expect you’ll be well outside of the state’s borders.
Supt. Luna – things are not irreversible. You still have some time left in your final term in office. Begin enacting policies that show teachers that they are valued in Idaho by your office. Quit trying to spin the failures of your policies as “business as usual”. Pay your teachers a living wage so that they may enjoy living in the wonderful satay of Idaho. Good luck, Supt. Luna. You’ve dug yourself quite a hole, but you can still stop digging and reverse course.