Teacher retention, one of the most pressing challenges in education, has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Fewer individuals are choosing to go into the field, and those who are leaving at increasingly higher rates, particularly those within their first five years of teaching. A ten-year Texas teacher retention analysis found only 49.8% of teachers who began teaching in 2010 remained in the field today. To address this question, CAST has designed a model that begins by engaging teachers in a re-examination of this problem.
A cohort of 30 novice and veteran teachers across the CAST Schools network will collaborate with the Urban Education Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio to foster exemplary learning environments where teachers grow professionally and are retained, and where students will love to learn and graduate with an array of options for their future.
“At CAST, we believe in listening to students, families, and educators,” said Jeanne Russell, CAST Schools Executive Director. “We figured if we wanted to keep our teachers, we needed to start by asking them what they would change about their working conditions.”
“This process has given me a sense of agency in the teaching profession and made me feel that my work matters. I am excited that teaching is being treated as other professions,” said CAST Med High School English Teacher Colleen Quirk, who participated in an initial planning session of 6 teachers from across the network.
CAST Schools has developed a comprehensive five-part model, developed cooperatively and with constant feedback from CAST principals, teachers, and stakeholders. The Meadows Foundation grant will support the development of an induction program while also building a supportive peer network. It includes a collaboration with San Antonio Leaders and Teachers (SALT) to host an annual new teacher conference (TeacherFest) and create other opportunities for teachers to connect and build community. The program also includes stipends for mentors and novice teachers.
A portion of the Meadows Grant will also be used by CAST Schools to improve working conditions for teachers through an innovative staffing model which would provide ongoing support for teachers and students. This staffing model enables time for planning and professional engagement, two areas CAST teachers suggested would support retention.
CAST Schools will launch these efforts in the fall of 2022 and will measure success in tangible and quantifiable ways with its partner school districts, including examining the work from a return-on-investment perspective.
The Meadows Foundation was established in 1948 to improve the quality and circumstances of life for the people of Texas now and in the future. Since its creation, the Foundation has awarded $1.32 billion in grants, including $76 million for public education and $84 million for mental health. It prioritizes projects with measurable outcomes with the potential to scale impact.
“Retaining teachers is essential for Texas students and the future of our state,” said Peter M. Miller, president and CEO of The Meadows Foundation. “Teaching has always been challenging, and we know how powerful great teachers are for their students. The pandemic has added extra stress that is discouraging our best teachers and deterring new ones, which is why we are excited to make this grant to CAST Schools. We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their innovative program.”
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ABOUT THE CAST Schools Network
The Centers for Applied Science & Technology (CAST) is a San Antonio-based network of tuition-free, public schools with a mission to reinvent schooling in order to maximize options for students while preparing them for college, career, and life. Open to all Bexar County students, the network includes high schools CAST Tech, CAST Teach, CAST STEM, CAST Med, CAST Lead and the Advanced Learning Academy. Schools are co-created with industry, and partner with area public school districts, including Northside, San Antonio, Southwest, and East Central ISDs. For more information, visit castschools.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.