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APM Reports

Wednesday, October 25 at 2:00 pm

Keeping Teachers

Teachers matter more than anything else in a school. But schools are struggling to hold on to the teachers they need.

Poor schools in urban and rural areas have something in common: Teachers are leaving, and it's having a big impact on kids.

"I don't know any math," said Cierra, a high school student in rural McDowell County, West Virginia. Last school year, when Cierra was a junior, her math teacher quit in the middle of the year, and a sub with no training in math education filled in. She had a string of subs in ninth and 10th grade math, too. "You can hand me like a freshman-year math and I'm like, 'Um, no, I don't know, I'm sorry.'"

In high-poverty schools, annual teacher turnover can top 20 percent.

For poor rural schools, the problem has a lot to do with larger forces tearing away at the economies of rural America, making it hard to both attract teachers, and hold on to them.

In cities, poor schools are having a particularly hard time holding on to African-American teachers. It's a big problem when it comes to black male teachers because there are so few of them to begin with. Only 2 percent of teachers are black men. Yet, there's lots of evidence that students benefit from having black teachers, and that more black men in a school building may be especially important for black boys.

"Our schools should look like our country," said Robert Parker, a teacher in Philadelphia. He's part of a group trying to recruit more black men into teaching, and to get them to stay.

This APM Reports documentary tells two stories about the challenges poor schools in both rural and urban areas face when it comes to finding and keeping the teachers they need.

To listen to the audio of “Keeping Teachers” on APM Reports online, please click HERE.