Teacher Turnover Complicates Urban Districts' Quest to Improve; Duval Planning More Development, Feedback in Hope of Reducing Attrition

By Amos, Denise Smith | The Florida Times Union, September 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Teacher Turnover Complicates Urban Districts' Quest to Improve; Duval Planning More Development, Feedback in Hope of Reducing Attrition


Amos, Denise Smith, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Denise Smith Amos

Thousands of students in Duval schools are sitting in front of new teachers this year, teachers who are new to their schools or new to teaching in general.

But chances are, many of them are not long for the classroom.

Several new national studies predict that the teacher workforce is "green" and getting greener, especially at large urban districts, where more experienced teachers are retiring or being recruited by suburban districts with less-challenging circumstances.

National researchers say they're alarmed that the churn of young teachers in high-poverty schools appears to be increasing as more young teachers leave schools at the beginning of their careers.

"The sheer number of novices in public school teaching has serious financial, structural and educational consequences ... straining budgets, disrupting school cultures and, more significantly, depressing student achievement," wrote Susan Headden, of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Her recent study notes teacher attrition at high-poverty schools is 50 percent higher than in non-poor schools. A 2013 study of several large districts showed a third of "highly effective" teachers left school in two years. By five years, nearly half were gone.

Headden said a lack of professional or administrative support was the most common reason, with teachers saying they lacked professional training or felt isolated in their classrooms.

LOST LEARNING

That teacher turnover hurts student grades.

An eight-year study of 850,000 New York fourth- and fifth-graders found schools with high teacher turnover lost significant amounts of learning in math and reading compared to similar schools with low turnover, and the effect was not limited to the classrooms where teachers left.

Student learning gains track with increased teacher experience, said Richard Ingersoll, professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, but experience also helps teachers better deal with parents, with kids who can't speak English well, or with kids with disabilities.

Duval schools for years struggled with teacher recruitment and retention.

For all but one of the past six school years, Duval has had to hire about 1,000 teachers a year. In 2011-12, it had to hire only 570. And in the last two years, it started school with dozens of unfilled teacher vacancies.

But this year, the numbers are better: The district hired 449 new teachers.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said last week he will restructure Duval's human resource department so in the next school year it can focus more on "human capital" - recruiting and retaining high-performing teachers. It will give teachers more professional development and better feedback. Vitti also said principals are being developed into instructional leaders to support teachers.

TEACH FOR AMERICA

Money also helps. This year, Duval begins paying $17,000 a year extra to certain high-scoring teachers who moved to the 36 "transformation schools" in the Raines, Ribault and Andrew Jackson high school feeder regions. The district is paying $20,000 extra a year to retain the high-scoring teachers already there.

That incentive pay comes from local donors to the Quality Education for All initiative.

Even so, the district has hired some novice teachers for those schools, from the national, non-traditional teacher program called Teach for America. …

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