March 28, 2021
By Koby Levin and Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee
Idriss Saleh hasn’t forgotten his freshman year teachers at Universal Academy, but he’s not sure they remember him.
By the time his senior year began this fall, he had outlasted all seven of those teachers. Saleh worked hard to maintain a 3.9 GPA and applied to an ambitious list of colleges. But he worries that he isn’t ready for college coursework, thanks in part to an unrelenting drumbeat of teachers leaving his school.
“Even though I worked hard to get to where I am, I feel like I’m still at a disadvantage entering college,” he said.
Decades of research back up his concern. Frequent turnover at the front of the classroom takes a steep toll on student learning, especially in low-income communities where students most need stable schools.
The problem is especially profound in Michigan. Amid stagnant school funding and growing disillusionment among teachers, more than 1 in 6 left for another school or left the classroom entirely in the 2018-19 school year, a higher rate than the most recent available national average. This isn’t for lack of well-documented solutions: Better training and mentorship, stronger principals, and higher pay are just some of the policies that have been shown to increase teacher retention.