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Why teaching staff stability matters

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Why teaching staff stability matters
(Minneapolis Public Schools)
by Doug Mann, 10 March 2006

Typically, in the first 3-5 years of a teacher's career, their effectiveness can improve dramatically from year to year, and a strong educational program can be developed and maintained if the following things are in place:

1) Good diagnostic testing procedures and planning. Teachers need to have, adapt, or contrive testing procedures which help them evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and tutorial activities, and to help them set priorities for planning lessons and student learning activities. For example if testing indicates that most students in a math class don't get certain math concepts, the teacher will want to get feedback from some of the student's who didn't catch on, review those items in a whole classroom setting, consider other ways to explain those concepts, consider other tutorial activities to reinforce the instruction, etc.

2) Continuity. Teachers who keep the same teaching position from one year to the next can use lesson plans, classroom presentations, instructional materials, and student outcomes from past years as a reference point for their current teaching assignment.

3) Low teacher turnover. The lower the teacher turnover in the program / building, the fewer the number of unknown variables. In more stable programs, teachers can get a better feel for what students learn in other classrooms in earlier grade levels and in the same grade level, which makes lesson planning from past years more relevant.

4) Team work. Teachers can improve their practice by sharing information, such as experiences with different teaching approaches, identification of areas where students need better preparation, collaboration on developing diagnostic testing procedures in various subject areas, and doing some interdisciplinary curriculum planning.

Teachers also face obstacles that can be surmounted to some extent in a program with a stable teaching staff, such as an incoherent curriculum, the failure of state departments of education and text book makers to provide good, ready-made testing procedures that are aligned to the curriculum (testing procedures are designed primarily to fulfill the function of "grading" students, labeling them as high-ability /college bound, "at-risk," etc.), changes in textbooks and accessories every few years by the board of education.

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