SBOE #EdPolicy Research Roundup: March 2019

By Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow

We’ve been shining a light on teacher and principal retention since October 2018—commissioning a report, hosting a public forum, inviting numerous expert witnesses to our public meetings, and convening a working group. As such, the #EdPolicy Research Roundup: March 2019 features two reports that touch on this important issue. One is a collaboration between the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) illuminating the issue of principal turnover. The second, published by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), is an overview of the education-related priorities of state governors (of which teacher quality is highlighted).

“Understanding and Addressing Principal Turnover: A Review of the Research”Learning Policy Institute, March 19, 2019

Summary: As school leaders, principals play a key role in retaining good teachers, promoting a positive learning environment, and ultimately providing a consistently quality education for students. This report emphasizes the importance of principals and that principal turnover is costly, both financially and academically for schools. From select research, five primary reasons why principals leave are found, many of which are comparable to the reasons often cited by teachers. The five reasons stated are:

(1) inadequate preparation and professional development,

(2) poor working conditions,

(3) insufficient salaries,

(4) lack of decision-making authority, and

(5) high-stakes accountability policies.

Particularly high-stakes accountability is associated with disincentive to stay in low-performing schools, particularly because such schools and populations could most benefit from stable and high-quality leadership.

The report also summarizes strategies that can reduce principal turnover. They include:

(1) creating high-quality professional development opportunities,

(2) improving working conditions for attainable job satisfaction,

(3) securing commensurate and stable salaries,

(4) supporting principal decision-making structures, and

(5) reforming accountability systems to incentivize the best leaders to stay in challenging schools to support teachers and students.

Arguing that principals are “a powerful resource for improving student learning” the report recommends that district leaders and policymakers prioritize principal retention towards the stability required for improving outcomes for schools, teachers, and most importantly students.

DC Context: The DC SBOE is undertaking a careful examination of the causes, consequences, and solutions to the issue of high teacher turnover in the District’s public schools while simultaneously asking questions about measurement and documentation of teacher hiring and retention. Complementing this work is consideration of the conditions, job satisfaction, and retention rates for school leadership—particularly principals. As factors and issues raised by principals around satisfaction and retention are comparable to those raised by teachers, policies, as well, can be complementary to these efforts, as good principals can cultivate and keep good teachers.

“Governors’ Top Education Priorities in 2019 State of the State Addresses”Education Commission of the States, March 2019

Summary: In November 2018, twenty new governors were elected across the United States. Since Election Day, 48 state governors and the Mayor of the District of Columbia have given an address. As they do each year, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) has collated and summarized the education-related messages from each of these speeches. Six high-profile priority areas related to education stood out among the speeches. They are:

School Finance: Governors touched upon topics such as increased per-pupil spending, constructing new funding formulas, allocation for specific initiatives, and the connection between finance and equity.

Workforce Development: Including career technical education (CTE) and post-secondary career training, governors recognized the relationship between educational opportunity and fulfilling the needs of employers. State leaders advocated for education that includes mentorship or apprenticeship which develops a competitive workforce to cultivate and keep talent in respective states.

Teacher Quality: Teacher recruitment and retention were priorities frequently coupled with discussions on compensation. Ideas around raising base salaries in states to merit pay policies were mentioned as vehicles to secure a strong teaching force for communities and states.

Early Learning: Half the governors mentioned preschool or full-day kindergarten. Expanding opportunities for 3-, 4-, and 5-year olds to receive appropriate and good-quality learning experiences in preparation for grade school was mentioned as a priority for state leaders.

Postsecondary Financial Aid: Governors recognized the rising costs of higher education. Financial aid opportunities for targeted populations, more funding for scholarships, and partnering with university foundations were among the ideas mentioned towards assisting with the financial accessibility of college.

School Safety: From building upgrades that target school safety to “see something, say something” campaigns and active shooter training, security and safety of students and staff are topics discussed by state leaders.

DC Context: On March 18, 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser followed the trend by mentioning many of the country-wide priorities outlined above, including early childhood; access to higher education at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and urging Congress to fully fund the D.C Tuition Assistance Grant; re-examining vocational programming in schools to help DC graduates find good paying jobs in the city; and the importance of recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. As a priority area for the SBOE as well, the Mayor emphasized the importance of quality teachers for all students in all classrooms. She also highlighted a new Workforce Housing Fund to support housing for teachers, policy officers, and those in other professions which serve the city.

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