Teacher and Principal Retention

By: Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

Teachers are the foundation of a quality education, and they are vital to the success of our students and our schools. The goals of excellence and equity in education in the District of Columbia cannot be achieved without a thriving, highly effective teacher workforce.

In May 2018, SBOE contracted with local education researcher and data analyst Mary Levy to produce a report on teacher and principal retention in the District of Columbia. The report was intended to establish a foundation for a deeper investigation of the challenge of retaining highly effective teachers.

In October, SBOE released the commissioned report along with three recommendations. The report found that teacher turnover at the DCPS system level is roughly 19 percent, and average annual teacher turnover at the school level in both traditional public schools and charter schools has consistently been about 25 percent. The report also found that turnover in DCPS neighborhood schools is highest in Wards 5 and 8, but that charter school turnover rates are largely the same regardless of location. At SBOE’s October 24 public meeting, over 15 public witnesses shared their experience on this issue.

DC Teacher Turnover School Level (SY 2014–15 to SY 2017–18)

DC Teacher Turnover by Ward & Sector (SY 2014–15 to SY 2017–18)

Following the report’s release, the State Board issued three recommendations:

(1) Create a single comprehensive and publicly available source of teacher and principal retention data;

(2) Ensure richer data collection on teacher and principal characteristics; and

(3) Conduct additional research to better understand the mechanisms by which teacher and principal retention affects students and schools.

On November 28, 2018, SBOE and EmpowerEd, a teacher advocacy organization, hosted a public forum on teacher and principal retention in the District. The forum focused on identifying solutions that both traditional public and public charter schools could implement to address the high numbers of teachers and principals leaving schools. The forum was held at Walker-Jones Education Campus and attended by over 100 educators, school leaders, policymakers, parents, and students. Attendees engaged in small group discussions and considered the strategies that they would prioritize to address retention, as well as the changes that would be needed to implement their proposed strategies.

Following the forum, the small group discussions were synthesized into five strategy areas. Each of these strategy areas addresses a theory of change that participants believe must occur to address teacher and principal retention in the District.

  • Teacher support mentorship; professional development; progression and advancement
  • Human resources pre-hiring and recruitment; once hired and ongoing support
  • School-level policy changes to high-stakes testing procedures; empowering teachers and school leaders; scheduling flexibility and innovative teaching models/structures
  • Data and research annual reporting; common definitions; exit surveys
  • School climate transparent and two-way communication; access to resources; distributed leadership and more recognition

The SBOE continues to work to improve teacher and principal retention and has published the strategies identified at the November 28 public forum online for public feedback and input.

**Anyone may provide feedback and input on the strategies that were proposed, as well as add new ideas that may not be listed, by visiting our online survey at http://bit.ly/DCTeacherPrincipalRetention. The online survey is open through Monday, December 17 at 10 a.m. ET.

The findings of the public forum and the feedback received will be shared and discussed at the December 19 SBOE public meeting.

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