Teachers in Industry: Teacher Retention

Retention of teachers is highly correlated with teacher quality.Inexperienced teachers in general are less effective (Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wickoff, 2009). The demand for highly qualified science and mathematics teachers in Arizona is great, and that demand will increase as our population continues to grow. There are many efforts to recruit new teachers to the profession, including fast-track certification programs for those with degrees in mathematics or sciences and scholarships for undergraduates. However, such efforts will never be enough, as nearly half of Arizona teachers leave the profession in the first five years. Clearly, teacher retention is a vital issue that has received too little attention.


Teacher attrition has many costs: financial costs for schools and districts, emotional and psychological costs to teachers and students, and achievement costs for students, especially those in low-income and low performing schools as well as students at risk (Watlington, Shockley, Gugliemino and Felsher, 2010).The US Department of Education states that mathematics and science teachers are of particular concern, first because they teach core subjects but also because there is a high workforce demand for individuals with a strong background in these areas (NCES 2008–077). The retention of mathematics and science teachers is directly connected to multiple educational and societal problems such as educational performance, achievement gaps, and national economic competitiveness (Ingersoll and May, 2012).Furthermore, all Americans need basic scientific knowledge to make informed choices and function in an increasingly technological society (“National Action Plan”, 2007). According to numerous reports (“National Action Plan”, 2007; “Rising Above the Gathering Storm”, 2006; Hodapp, 2006; Marder, 2006) the shortage of qualified STEM teachers is reaching a critical point and these sources are unanimous in stating that improving K-12 mathematics and science education should be our top priority today, in view of serious implications for our scientific and engineering workforce of the 21st century. Traditionally, increasing the supply of teachers has been the response to loss of mathematics and science teachers to the classroom. Even though data on the mathematics/science teacher pipeline indicate that more than enough teachers are being produced to replace both retiring educators and keep up with increased student enrollment (Ingersoll and May, 2012), it is indeed teacher attrition that is the major factor in the mathematics/science teacher shortage (Ingersoll and Perda, 2009)Therefore it is critical that we provide support for new educators as they begin their teaching careers (Hodapp, 2006; Marder, 2006), especially for teachers in low performing schools (Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff, 2009; Borman and Dowling, 2008).


Recent Arizona Town Hall recommendations include increasing involvement of the business community (Lopez, 2008) and induction programs that are content specific, focused on strengthening new teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (Middleton, 2008). The history of Teachers in Industry is indicative of our commitment to strengthening not only content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and instructional practice among early career teachers, but also of the University of Arizona STEM Learning Center’s core mission to develop collaborative relationships between the University of Arizona, the business community, and K-12 educational institutions.Teachers in Industry creates a sustained dialogue between businesses, industries and educators regarding STEM teaching and learning and the skills that are required for employment in STEM industries and businesses.


Nutter and Zhang (2007) show that teachers’ perceptions of their own performance are directly related to the length of time they stay in teaching.  A study of over 400 teachers who participated in the Industry Initiatives for Science and Mathematics Education (IISME) program in the San Francisco Bay area between 1985 and 2000 documented the effect of industry internships on teacher retention (Weisbaum & Huang; 2001).The majority of participants in the IISME fellowship programs were secondary science, mathematics and technology teachers. The study showed that teachers who participated in the summer fellowship programs stayed in teaching at higher rates than teachers who did not participate in the industry internships. Nearly 40% of the teachers in the study had been teaching less than 3 years.Attrition rates of their participants were estimated to be approximately 4% annually compared with approximately the national and state (California) attrition rates of 8%. Even among those who left teaching, approximately two-thirds of them reported that the internships helped them stay in teaching longer than they would have otherwise.This is the only comprehensive study documenting the relationship between teacher internships and retention that appears in the literature. The data from Teachers in Industry, to date, shows an overall attrition rate from the teaching profession at approximately 7% over eight years, less than 1% annually. Teachers in Industry is therefore well poised to contribute significantly to our understanding of the benefits of teacher industry partnerships on teacher retention.


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