(March 11, 2018 by Kristen Taketa, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, photos by Robert Cohen)
For the past two years, St. Louis Public Schools leaders have been looking for answers to this question: Why do our teachers leave?
School leaders think it’s largely because many first-year teachers are not adequately prepared.
It’s possible, for example, to be hired as a teacher in a St. Louis school without ever having walked through the school’s front doors. It’s possible to become a teacher after having spent just 12 weeks in front of a classroom, the minimum amount of student teaching that Missouri requires for new teachers. On top of that, teachers with the least experience are the ones most likely to be placed in the most challenging schools — the ones already facing high teacher turnover and low academic performance.
“I can tell you, we lose so many people within the first quarter just on the job, like even the first 30 days on the job, because they’re not ready,” said Haliday Douglas, director of talent strategy and management for the district. “Sometimes they’re not ready in terms of skill set, sometimes in terms of mindset.”
District leaders hope to solve this problem by partnering with St. Louis Teacher Residency, an organization formed last year that will recruit, then educate, train and embed new teachers within hard-to-staff public schools. This is St. Louis’ first and only teacher residency. More than two dozen exist nationwide. The East St. Louis School District is also starting a teacher residency, in partnership with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.