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Purcell: Teacher shortage conversations need to include managing students, parents

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Efforts to attract and keep teachers in Alabama classrooms need to include helping them manage unruly students and disrespectful parents, Jim Purcell, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, said recently.

During an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal, Purcell referenced an April report that showed more than 50% of new teachers leave their first classroom within three years. The school environment is part of the problem, he said. 

“I think there is a lot more effort about classroom management, about how to discipline appropriately,” Purcell said.

We did some research,” he continued. “We did find that [teachers] were concerned about the students were unruly, the parents were disrespectful, the community didn’t respect teachers anymore… A lot said they were burned out.”

See the full exchange below.

Purcell and ACHE have studied Alabama’s teacher pipeline issue for several years. Last year, ACHE surveyed about 17,700 K-12 employees, most of them teachers, and found that 6% planned to leave within one year. Another 32% planned to leave within five years.

Many leaving the profession listed unruly students, salaries and lack of instructional preparation time as reasons.

Purcell praised lawmakers for the substantial raise given teachers in the upcoming education budget. 

About the unruly students, Purcell said the education community has started conversations about ensuring a better work environment for teachers, including more training for what to expect in classrooms.

He also noted that many teachers who planned to stay in the classroom said they felt burnt out.

Teachers aren’t the only profession ACHE is looking to keep in Alabama. The commission recently said nearly 50% of all bachelor’s degree holders from Alabama universities aren’t employed in the state five years after graduating.

Purcell said ACHE is in the process of reaching out to some graduates who left in last 10 years to let them know about comparable job opportunities in their home state.

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