Teacher Turnover Might Be Less If Schools Complied With Mentoring and Training Requirements
Audit finds districts can’t show they offered the skills-boosting help they’re supposed to provide
Media accounts and public school interests have claimed for years there is a statewide teacher shortage, even though schools appear to get many applications for most job openings. Now advocates for spending more on schools say there is a teacher turnover problem, with many educators leaving the profession.
At the same time, a new report from the Michigan Office of the Auditor General finds a problem with professional development in public schools. Specifically, many public schools are unable to document that their new teachers are getting the professional development and mentoring opportunities districts are required by law to provide.
Stories about turnover at public schools in the state often focus on teacher pay and school funding. But the audit raises concerns that school district administrators may not be doing enough to help new teachers polish their skills. That, in turn could contribute to the problems schools have in retaining teachers.
The audit used a sample of 20 districts. It found that 12 of them lacked documentation sufficient to prove they had provided all teachers with at least five days of professional development opportunities each year, as required by law.
Of the 20 districts, 16 had recently hired new teachers. Five of them, which had hired a total of 47 new teachers, could not give the auditing office adequate proof they had provided the extra professional development they were supposed to provide for eight of those teachers. Districts are required to provide five days of development each year for all teachers. They must also provide a minimum of 15 additional days for new teachers during their first three years on the job.
The law states that new teachers must be assigned an experienced teacher or college professor to guide them in their first three years. But according to the audit, the employers of 34% of those new teachers had no record showing the mentor requirement had been fulfilled.
The audit covered the years 2015 through 2018.
A failure of school districts to provide new teachers with professional development opportunities could contribute to teacher turnover, but media reports on the problem usually focus on claims that schools don’t get enough money.
A March 2021 article from Chalkbeat Detroit reported, “Improving the situation would be expensive, and Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature has shown little appetite for a major school funding overhaul.”
The state agencies responsible for overseeing teacher development efforts did not dispute another finding in the audit: They had been lax in enforcing these requirements.
The Office of Educator Excellence within the Michigan Department of Education is responsible for implementing Michigan’s laws on educators’ preparation and development. In a response to the audit, the office said it is no longer monitoring how or or whether districts comply with the requirements. It cited limited staffing, adding it stopped monitoring districts in 2013-14 because of low error rates.
In its response, the Michigan Department of Education said it has put procedures in place to ensure teachers get adequate professional development each year. Officials in the department also suggest earmarking money in school budgets specifically for mentoring teachers. They also said the state could “penalize districts that failed to provide the mentoring given the added funding.”
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.