Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Teachers Need More Training, Not Just Perks, Union Urges

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Teachers Need More Training, Not Just Perks, Union Urges

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- Jonathan Hunter started his teaching career four years ago in high demand: Skilled in Spanish, he was trained to teach students with limited English and wanted to work in an urban district. For him, it could have been all about money.

"They offer the bonuses and the health club memberships and the higher salaries," Hunter, a 28-year-old Philadelphia high school English teacher, said of districts desperate to fill teaching vacancies

But new hires really need better training, more respect and opportunities to earn promotions and pay raises over the course of their careers, said Hunter and other educators here for the American Federation of Teachers' biennial meeting.

"We will never really improve American education until we elevate the teaching profession," Education Secretary Richard Riley told the teachers yesterday. "If we are asking teachers to teach to new high standards, we are asking them to do so much more than was asked of teachers in years gone by."

Looking to fill an estimated 2.2 million new teacher slots in the next 10 years, states and localities are fighting mass retirements, stagnant salaries and competition from other, better-paying fields.

Alaska is offering them gym memberships and moving expenses. California is raising their pay by about $7,000. Massachusetts wants to promise them better pensions.

But beyond the costly new carrots, little thought is to given to how to keep beginning teachers in the classroom, according to veteran educators.

"You can have a hiring bonus, but it doesn't get at the root of the problem," said Celia Lose, a spokeswoman for the 1-million-member union. "It's not enough to keep people in such a demanding profession."

Twenty percent of teachers will quit before the end of a third year of teaching, Education Department figures show. Part of the reason is that the newest teachers tend to be paid less and assigned to classrooms that veterans pass over.

"We're losing almost as many as we get," said Carnell Washington, who trains student teachers at a high school in East Baton Rouge, La. …

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