Nearly 2,000 Georgia educators, according to AJC data, retired Dec. 1, taking advantage of an eliminated pension benefit.
In a typical year, roughly 15 percent of this number leaves the field in December, but this exodus allows retirees to claim a one-time 3 percent increase in their base for yearly pension benefits being discontinued in January.
But why are teachers new to the field leaving? Studies since 2006 show they are leaving public teaching within four and a half to five years.
A fall 2012 "Fortune" magazine article suggests that workers don't quit companies; workers quit lousy leaders. Contributor Verne Harnish shares a survey showing 65 percent of workers prefer a new boss over a raise.
John Tierney writes last month in "The Atlantic" that most teachers leave today because "they hate their bosses."
Other reports show teacher satisfaction at a 20-year low. Teachers want strong leaders; strong leaders heavily influence student outcomes.
A compilation of research from The Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association, shares the following about the effect of leadership on student outcomes:
"Principals impact their students' outcomes, particularly at the most challenging schools. When looking at factors within a school, it is estimated that principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student achievement (Seashore-Louis, et al. 2010).
A highly effective principal can increase his or her students' scores up to 10 percentile points on standardized tests in just one year (Waters, Marzano and McNulty 2003)."
Locally, both Eastside High and Newton High realized double-digit percentile point increases in SAT math and reading, respectively. Alcovy High dropped double digits in both SAT math and reading.
Additionally, "Principals can also affect other student outcomes, including reducing student absences and suspensions, and improving graduation rates."
Fixing America's schools, then, starts with leadership, and numerical data, from graduation rates to SAT scores, is a function of building leadership.
In an address at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in May of this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the topic of school leadership as follows: "Great school leaders nurture, retain, and empower great teachers -- bad school leaders drive them off and are threatened by them."
In "Bad Leadership," Harvard academic and leadership guru Barbara Kellerman captures key qualities of poor leadership, arguing that bad leadership and bad followership go hand-in-hand.
Often, argues Kellerman, incompetent leaders are abetted by followers who are either unwilling or unable to effectively intervene. Kellerman describes leaders who lack the skill, will or both to create positive change as incompetent. Some lack practical, academic or emotional intelligence.
Another key ingredient of bad leadership, according to Kellerman? Corruption. Corrupt leaders will lie, cheat or steal and some followers get sucked into the game, all of them putting self-interest ahead of public interest.
Strong school leadership in each building is essential to school improvement. When we fail to ensure that it happens, then we fail teachers and students.
Send your thoughts on school leadership to Jeff Meadors at firstname.lastname@example.org