The question of how to retain experienced high-performing teachers in the nation’s classrooms has been occupying professionals and lay leaders for decades. Suggestions include introducing teacher mentoring programs, creating better teacher training programs, improving the schools’ administration levels and raising teachers’ pay.
While districts differ in the extent to which their high-performing teachers leave the profession, studies indicate that the problem of teacher attrition affects all schools nationwide.
The Milken Family Foundation has created an award which is specifically designed to address the issue of how the nation can hope to keep its best teachers in the classroom. The award is based on the premise that the most important school-based factor in a child’s school experience is an effective teacher and that effective teachers will be more likely to remain in the classroom if their efforts are recognized.
While outside factors, including awards, cannot address many of the problems that exist in the country’s classrooms such as low school budgets, large numbers of students who come from distressed family situations and an apathetic political leadership, the awards can and do serve to inspire educators who are identified as highly effective teachers by their communities and students.
Lowell Milken who helps fund the award, believes that the goal of the public school education system should be primarily one of preparing the students for life in the world, whether that includes joining the work force or advancing on to higher education. Toward that end the MFF presents the Milken Educator Award annually to deserving teachers — “unsung heroes” — who use their creativity and vision to shape their students’ successful integration into their post-high school lives. Recognizing outstanding educators is the responsibility of the community, the Foundation notes and their annual Milken Educator Awards aim to do just that.
The MFF strives to inspire excellence in the field of education by honoring top quality K-12 teachers. Award recipients are generally early-to-mid career educators who live and work in locations throughout the United States. Many of the recipients receive grants which they are then free to use at their discretion to further their classroom objectives. To date the Milken Family Foundation has invested over 135 million dollars in this effort.