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Teachers Need More Than Quick Fix Mandates

Classrooms are complex ecosystems which are immune to quick fix mandates.

The narrow, yet very important focus of increasing student achievement must be expanded to include the conditions that affect the way in which classrooms operate. Critical to the success of schooling in urban settings is the emphasis on increasing the retention of teachers and reducing the numbers of student referrals and suspensions—two factors that plague the success of students in urban schools.

Many teachers who leave urban schools cite “lack of support” and “poor working conditions.” Teacher attrition is further compounded by challenges related to student behavior. In fact, many educators in urban schools end their teaching careers within the first three to five years.[1] As chronic teacher turnover rates persist, the underachievement and epidemic dropout levels of African American and Latino students will continue to escalate.

When examining the enrollment and suspension rates of students, one can clearly see the discrepancies relative to student behavior that exist with regard to some students:

Nationally, African American students make up 17 percent of the national enrollment but constitute 36 percent of suspensions and 32 percent of expulsions. Conversely, White students represent 59 percent of the population make up 44 percent of suspensions and expulsions.[2]

These statistics clearly illustrate the essential need for a fundamental shift in our approach to supporting teachers and educating urban youth. A recent study conducted by the Center for Teacher Quality emphasizes this point:

81 percent of teachers stated that they became educators to “Make a difference for children and society.” Additionally, 71 percent of educators cited “The desire to work with children or adolescents.” [3]

Why do teachers, who are so passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people, demonstrate such arbitrary disciplinary practices and leave urban classrooms at such an alarming rate?

The enthusiasm for teaching becomes extinguished when educators encounter the day-to-day challenges of working in urban schools. To reverse this trend, we must provide extensive and lasting support for teachers in creating and sustaining classroom environments that promote students’ academic and social development.

An emphasis must be placed on creating engaging, responsive, and inspiring classrooms where students are responsible, respectful, and have a vested interest in learning and working together. Urban schools truly have the potential to be what we all hope for, and what all children deserve, if we leverage the passion and commitment of teachers and broaden the scope of education for our youth.

Does your school focus on strategies that supports students’ academic and social development?  Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.


[1] Alliance For Excellent Education, Teacher Attrition: A Costly Loss to the Nation and to the States, 2005
[2] Suspension and Expulsion At-A-Glance, UCLA, Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, Karen Hunter Quartz, 2006
[3] A Possible Dream, Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn, Ken Futernick, 2007

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