SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Tiffany Hatch isn’t quite a unicorn, but a new state audit suggests she’s done something nearly half of her teaching cohort hasn’t. : hold out in the profession.
While the audit shows that in 2017, Utah teacher retention was the highest nationally, Utah teacher turnover in their first five years of employment exceeds 40%, the Deseret News reported.
“This is higher than the national averages which vary between 17% and 46%,” said the audit recently released by the Office of the Auditor General of Legislation.
Hatch is in his sixth year of teaching after graduating from Weber State University. The mother of five said she decided to become a teacher one morning after dropping her children off at school.
It was a rainy day, she recalls. After saying goodbye to her children and loving them, she lingered to watch them enter their school.
“I was like, ‘I hope these teachers are so good with my kids because they will be with them so much more than I am today,” she said.
“I thought, ‘I hope they don’t just teach my kids, but build their self-esteem.’ This is what I want as a mom and this is what I could do if I was a teacher.
At the time, Hatch didn’t have an undergraduate degree, so she decided to apply for a job in a school office.
“A principal who was in one of my interviews knew that a school was looking for a teacher’s aide and said, ‘Oh, she would be really good,'” Hatch said.
She got the job, which involved running the school’s preschool program. She was also a kindergarten tutor and helped elementary school teachers who taught grades five and two.
“By doing this, I just realized how much I liked it,” she said.
As Hatch explored college education programs, she learned about Weber State University’s Pathway to Teaching program, or TAPT for short.
The program provides teacher assistants with financial support and mentorship to become fully licensed teachers. It is supported by public funds but also by private donors and companies.
Hatch, now a first grade teacher at South Clearfield Elementary School, calls the program a “gift on a silver platter.”
The TAPT program covered her tuition and provided academic and emotional support, which was a “win-win,” she said.
“They brought in people to talk about classroom management or they brought in people to talk about ethics, or they brought in different people from college, and that was just great. So I think that gives anyone a huge head start, ”she said.
The TAPT program helps current school employees advance in their careers. It focuses on a population of people who are already working in schools and who are familiar with classroom conditions.
Kristin Hadley, dean of Moyes College of Education at Weber State, said participants’ experience working in schools contributes to the success of the program. “Ninety-five percent of the graduates of this program are still teaching,” she said.
One of the factors is, “They don’t feel any of that shock of ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was like that.’ They know exactly what teaching is because they work in schools and then we support them throughout their education, ”she said.
According to the recent legislative audit, a student’s completion of a teacher education program in Utah also counts toward teacher retention.
For the five-year period examined by auditors – 2017-2021 – Weber State University graduates had the lowest teacher turnover rate, at 36%.
Hadley said the lower turnover of Weber State graduates can also be attributed to the way the university delivers its educational program.
“Our program is deeply rooted in our local school districts. We have students in the field very early on and often work with students from various schools, ”Hadley said, such as Title I schools or schools where student families have more personal resources. Title I funds help schools meet the educational needs of students living near or on the edge of poverty.
Weber State’s College of Education, in partnership with Davis School District, teaches some courses in an elementary school, and students can apply what they learn in the classroom “so that they get a much richer experience,” said Hadley said.
According to the audit, the University of Utah and Dixie State University each recorded 41% in revenue, followed by Utah Valley University at 45%, Southern Utah University at 48% and the ‘Utah State University at 49%.
Turnover among students educated at the private non-profit Brigham Young University and Western Governors University were 75% and 81%, respectively.
The audit notes that differences in teacher turnover between universities “may be the result of different student populations. Additionally, proportional differences between international students (who may continue to work out of state), student demographics, backgrounds, and career paths may not be evenly distributed among each university.
The audit shows that teachers who have graduated from traditional college educator preparation programs or who complete an alternative program approved by the Utah State Board of Education have a lower turnover rate than those entering the profession through a non-professional license.
“The turnover rates for the 2015-2016 cohort show a difference of almost 20 percentage points between teachers with a professional license and teachers without a professional license,” the audit said.
Unaccredited teachers are people who entered the faculty through other avenues such as licenses associated with or specific to the local education agency.
To earn an associate’s license, a candidate must pass the State School Board’s background check and ethics review. They must either have obtained a bachelor’s degree or be looking for a degree. They must demonstrate knowledge of what they will be teaching and complete the State Council teaching modules.
An LEA license requires a background check and an ethics review. The district school board or charter school board must apply on behalf of the educator. The school or district should create a personalized plan for supporting educators.
The audit notes that “Utah’s teaching staff is increasingly made up of higher proportions of these professionally unlicensed teachers.”
Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association, said a growing reliance on teachers who have not been trained in educator preparation programs is cause for concern.
“It means they learn on the job, and we have to think about the impact that has on the educators themselves, but on our own student learning,” she said.
Matthews said lawmakers have made progress in recent years to increase teachers’ salaries, but many educators say they are grappling with stress and workload, issues that have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic .
“Stress is the cumulative result of a wide variety of issues that puts many of our educators to the breaking point. When you add to that the attacks on our professional integrity, the discussions of teaching race in our schools, teaching an honest and accurate history, not making anyone uncomfortable, creating limits to the race. creating welcoming classrooms and transparency of programs add up, ”she said. .
State Superintendent of Education, Sydnee Dickson, said educators are aware of efforts by lawmakers to increase funding for education and also to support initiatives that provide schools with needed supports.
During the last general session of the Utah Legislature, lawmakers allocated more than $ 6 billion for public education from state, federal and local sources, which they called ” historical ”.
The base budget included more than $ 400 million in new funding for education, a 6% increase in the value of the weighted unit of students, which is the cornerstone of education funding in the Utah, and funding for enrollment growth and inflation.
Dickson said lawmakers also need to be aware of the impact of their policy decisions, especially since “the division in the country is playing out in our classrooms as well,” she said.
As the state’s school board sets policies and rules, “I still wonder how does this impact the classroom? So it’s this duality of the arm around our teachers, but putting more on their plate and saying “wear more”, she said.
At South Clearfield Elementary School, Hatch said she continues to refine her teaching practice and mentor students and teachers new to the profession. She said she is compelled to give back because she has benefited tremendously from the seasoned educators who have guided her.
Hatch said she believes state and local education officials are aware of teacher turnover and continue to improve teacher compensation and make other efforts to support their efforts, such as funding the supply of teachers and the bonus given to educators for their hard work during the pandemic.
Sometimes it’s the little niceties that get a teacher through tough times.
Two years ago, Hatch was in the middle of class when she saw her principal and a group of “costumed” people filtering through the back of her classroom.
“So I teach, teach, teach. They are standing in the back and as they exit Sydnee Dickson approached me in front of the class and said, “Thank you for being a teacher. “
“Of course my principal follows right in and it’s like, ‘Mrs. Hatch, this is Sydnee Dixon, the state superintendent.
“And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I know. I’m going to write about it in my journal. I mean, it’s so sweet. Who does that? I mean, talk about leadership. Who does that? “