Why can’t Minnesota hold onto its teachers?

Yesterday in this space I provided two stories of inspiring teachers, fighting the odds and making a big difference in the lives of little kids.

Now the other shoe: Minnesota can’t hold onto its teachers.

MPR’S Solvejg Wastvedt reports that gains in hiring teachers of color are being undermined by the state’s problems in keeping teachers.

One of every four Minnesota teachers leaves the profession after just three years, a report from the Minnesota Department of Education says.

Salary is one reason, Wastvedt says. Another is it’s a competitive market for teachers. We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that using teachers as a public punching bag whenever education issues are discussed isn’t helping either.

“Districts won’t hold on to great new teachers if those teachers keep coming up short every month after paying for health insurance, housing, living expenses and their student loans,” a union president’s statement said that accompanied the report.

The white student population is shrinking and there’s a need for teachers who look like their students, particularly in areas such as special education, math, and chemistry.

Making the problem even worse is that fewer people want to be teachers, according to the Star Tribune. There’s been a 30-percent decline in the number of people entering teacher preparation programs.

Why do young teachers leave? One ex-teacher, commenting on the Star Tribune’s site, says it’s too hard to teach effectively.

I am a former teacher who left a job I loved because I couldn’t comply with multiple federal, state, and local district “professional improvement” initiatives that I was required to complete. The time-consuming extra work was fussy, repetitive and ultimately not that useful, because it took away so much time from actual teaching and lesson planning. After struggling for several years, I came to realize that I was being forced to choose between being an engaging, competent teacher and an uninspiring bureaucrat.

Almost all of the initiatives that teachers are required to complete these days result from an admirable desire to close the achievement gap between white children and children of color. Tragically, all of them are based upon the notion that the achievement gap is primarily caused by inadequate, and perhaps racist, teachers. It follows then, that schools can close the gap by “fixing” the teachers. There are a host of problems that create the achievement gap – I don’t need to enumerate them. The so-called “poor quality” of teaching is not high among them.

Another ex-teacher, whose last assignments were in the ’90s, suggests it’s no longer a profession to recommend.

The profession has been almost ruined by politicians, especially Conservatives, who are relentless in tearing down and belittling educators, public schools, and even the students themselves by failing to understanding that all students are not alike, nor do they have the same abilities or the same support system at home or from extended families.

Once you get past the usual DFL v. GOP foodfight in the comments section, there is a growing theme among the worthy commenters with experience to share. Teaching is not, they say, something to aspire too anymore.

I wouldn’t mind hearing from young teachers today whether that’s true, although I’m sure it will be difficult for them to find the time to comment here, particularly since they were off to work this morning before the rest of us finished our first cup of coffee.

Related: Noet, Owatonna Jr. High social studies teacher, nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year (Owatonna People’s Press)