A recent report warns that more than half of veteran teachers nationwide (1.7 million) will retire in the next decade. New teachers won’t fill the gap because a growing number leave the profession within five years. In places like San Diego, critical teacher shortages could be just two to three years away. But until public schools improve the professional working environments for teachers, don’t expect to attract-much less retain-top talent. While unions and other groups purporting to represent teachers have focused on such things as class size, sick days, and collective bargaining agreements, little has changed since 1983 when A Nation at Risk concluded that the “professional working life of teachers is on the whole unacceptable.” New research finds that compared to their public school counterparts, private school teachers are much more satisfied with their jobs. Why? Private schools hire based on talent and empower their teachers with decision-making about classroom discipline, curricula, and standards. In contrast, public schools often squander teacher talent, with only 68 percent of classroom time available for core instruction-which itself is highly micromanaged by non-educators, including district curriculum “experts,” administrators, and politicians. Such treatment is symptomatic of the fact that K-12 teachers are typically recruited from the bottom third of college graduates. Talented prospective teachers in graduate “education” courses report they are “sick of coloring for a master’s degree” (bottom). Want more top teachers? Look at what the highest-performing countries are doing. They recruit teachers from the top five percent of university graduates, schools compete to hire them, then they pay them competitive salaries rivaling other leading professions to keep them.