Andy Kwok can breathe a sigh of relief. We’ll no longer be text-messaging him, “dropping by” to observe his classroom, or interviewing his students about how he’s doing.
Kwok, 23, was a first-year teacher at West Oakland’s EXCEL High School who graciously allowed us to document his experience, “recording my every blunder,” as he wrote in a piece that ran in today’s Tribune. (Read the last installment and watch the latest video here.)
Kwok was candid about his shortcomings and his struggles — including his decision last fall to assign easier work to his students because so many of them were failing.
In August, with a year of experience under his belt, Kwok expects to start the year off differently.
We took on this project because hundreds of brand new teachers arrive in the Oakland schools each fall. The district’s turnover rate last year was 14 percent, and most of those vacancies are filled with beginners. It’s common practice for urban districts around the country to assign new teachers to the most challenging schools and classrooms, likely because they have few other options.
As tough as the experience is for the first-year teacher, Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality told me, “The students are going to suffer a lot more than the teacher ever will.”
Oakland Unified hasn’t been shy about taking on bold education experiments. I know district administrators have been trying to find ways to stabilize the teaching force, through better training and mentoring and by recruiting people with deeper roots in Oakland.
What incentives could the district — or the state, or the nation — give strong teachers with two or more years of experience to stay in their schools? Competitive pay? More support (examples, please)?
photo by Jane Tyska, Oakland Tribune