Teachers Quitting In DC

Valerie Jablow points out that there is an enormous problem with DC public and charter teachers being so harassed that they quit: around 70% of them quit by their 5th year of employment. (She adds that this is probably not a bug, but a feature of the DC teacher evaluation program.) I am reprinting her entire column, but you should subscribe to it yourself.

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Let’s Be Clear: DC Teacher Retention Isn’t Just A Problem. It’s A Crisis.

by Valerie Jablow

This Wednesday evening, October 23, at 5:30 pm, the DC state board of education (SBOE), DC’s only elected body with a direct (if relatively powerless) voice on our schools, will take public testimony on teacher retention in DC’s publicly funded schools. (See more information here.)

While public voice is sorely needed in every conversation about our public schools, in this case it’s a bit akin to choosing wallpaper for a burning building.

But that’s hardly SBOE’s fault.

In the wake of years of testimony about horrific treatment of DC teachers, SBOE last year commissioned a study by DC schools expert Mary Levy, which showed terrible attrition of teachers at our publicly funded schools, dwarfing attrition rates nationally.

An update to that 2018 study was just made available by SBOE and will be discussed at the meeting this week.

The update shows that while DCPS teacher and principal attrition rates have dropped slightly recently, they remain very high, with 70% of teachers leaving entirely by the 5-year mark (p. 32). Retention rates for DC’s charter schools are similar to those at DCPS–with the caveat that not only are they self-reported, but they are also not as complete and likely contain errors.

Perhaps the most stunning data point is that more than half of DCPS teachers leaving after 6 years are highly rated (p. 24). This suggests that the exodus of teachers from DC’s publicly funded schools is not merely a matter of weeding out poor performers (as DCPS’s response after p. 70 of this report suggests). Rather, it gives data credence to the terrifying possibility that good teachers are being relentlessly harassed until they give up and leave.

Sadly, that conclusion is the only one that makes sense to me, given that most of my kids’ teachers in my 14 years as a DCPS parent have left their schools–with only a few retiring after many years of service. Most of my kids’ teachers were both competent and caring. Perhaps not coincidentally, they almost always also lacked basic supplies that they ended up buying with their own money; were pressured to teach to tests that would be the basis of their and their principals’ evaluations; and feared reprisal for saying any of that.

(I’m hardly alone in that observation–read some teacher testimony for the SBOE meeting here, including that of a special education teacher, who notes that overwork with caseloads; lack of supplies; and increased class sizes for kids with disabilities are recurring factors at her school that directly lead to teacher burnout.)

In other words, high teacher attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools isn’t a bug but a feature.

Now the real question is why is SBOE apparently the only school leadership body undertaking this work in this manner?

To be fair, DC’s office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) recently commissioned a report, which showed even higher rates of attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools.

Yet, despite a situation that resembles a full-blown crisis of longstanding proportions, OSSE’s report was weirdly anodyne.

For instance, only 50 of 68 LEAs participated and then, even after citing horrific retention rates, OSSE’s report noted (boldface mine) that “some evidence suggests that DC teacher retention rates may be slightly lower than other cities across the country.”

The report went on to note that “a study of 16 large urban districts found that 81 percent of teachers remained at their schools after one year, compared to 70 percent in DC. National figures suggest that about 84 percent of public school teachers remained at the same school between 2011-12 and the 2012-13 school year.”

Gotta ask:

Is anyone at OSSE at all given pause by the fact that their own citation shows that DC’s teachers are leaving at annual rates more than 10% higher than in comparable urban areas? Or that DC’s 70% annual retention figure above means that a third of DC’s teachers are leaving every year?

Or how about the fact that OSSE’s collaborator on this study, TNTP (founded by former DCPS chancellor Michelle Rhee), has long been the beneficiary of DCPS contracts on teacher performance and training–as well as one of the cheerleaders for rating schools and teachers with test scores, while a former staffer for TNTP recently co-authored a report on DC teacher retention that happily concluded that high teacher turnover can actually increase test scores?

(Yeah–but only for students with teachers receiving the lowest ratings. Yay for us! Oh, and no worries about those kids with those low-rated teachers! Despite the fact that both recent OSSE and SBOE retention reports show that at risk kids in DC are much more likely to have less effective and less experienced teachers who stay for shorter terms, if churning teachers makes for good test scores, perhaps we shouldn’t worry about the collateral damage of taking away the little stability that these kids might otherwise have in their lives. Outcomes, baby, outcomes!)

In fact, OSSE’s recent report on teacher retention appears to be an outgrowth of its recent collaboration with TNTP, the stated goal of which is to “help LEAs develop effective strategies to attract, develop, and retain great teachers to serve their students through robust analysis of staffing data from across the District.”

Of course, that “robust analysis” is only with “LEAs who opt to participate”–which is a charming way to say that whatever OSSE and TNTP have together done on this subject is all, well, voluntary.

Which is kind of like seeing the burning building that is DC teacher retention and not worrying whether everyone has evacuated because choices!

(Or freedom? Hard sometimes to suss out right-wing talking points.)

Indeed, the charter board’s response to the latest SBOE report echoed this (see response after p. 70), noting that “each school pursues its own approach, including its own human capital strategies. In this context, there is no universal “right” rate of attrition, just as there is no universal rate that is too high or too low. The right attrition rate for each school will depend on that school’s approach, their needs and their situation in any given year.”

Despite such official unconcern with the recurring devastation of human capital in our schools, the SBOE is now undertaking to get the council to legislate standardized reporting for teacher attrition, given that we don’t have any standards.

Think about this for a second:

SBOE is asking the council, another elected body with only indirect oversight of schools, to enact legislation to force OSSE to ensure all schools report teacher attrition and retention in a standardized way because we have an emergency here already and no one is telling OSSE to do this. Come to think of it, given the subject matter and its emergency status, you would THINK all this is already OSSE’s obligation (you know, because of  that whole mayoral control thingy).

And yet, right now, there is literally only one person in DC who is doing any fulsome reporting of this emergency–and she doesn’t work for OSSE, despite being twice hired by SBOE to report an emergency situation that city education leaders outside SBOE seem to regard as, well, the price of doing business.

So, to recap:

–Horrific teacher retention in all publicly funded schools in DC;
–No standardized and/or mandated reporting of teacher retention in all DC publicly funded schools;
–Teacher harassment and blame for student and school success;
–No official connection of that to poor teacher retention in DC;
–At risk kids bearing the brunt of teacher mobility, including less experienced and effective teachers;
–DC education leaders begging to differ with all of that; and
–A dis-empowered SBOE trying to get both the council and OSSE to actually fix all of that while the mayor is . . . .

Uh, where IS the mayor, anyway?

Yeah.

Gutting All DC High School Graduation Requirements

The question of exactly what it takes to earn a high school diploma in the District of Columbia, or anywhere else, is of course one for which one answer won’t satisfy everybody. Which is why whenever such requirements are set, they need to be widely debated so that the very worst ideas can at least be eliminated.

My former colleague Erich Martel has brought to my attention what seems to be a ‘stealth’ attempt to completely gut the DC HS graduation requirements, and perhaps to turn them all over to whoever it is that sells easily-defrauded online courses. I am reprinting his entire letter for your edification. Please read, and take some action. Letters and emails definitely help!

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[To] Ms. Wilson-Phelan and Mr. Batchelor,

cc: GRTF members, SBOE members, teachers; concerned community

 [From: Erich Martel}

I read your draft proposal for changing DC graduation requirements (http://tinyurl.com/ybm63tr5) which you submitted to the Graduation Requirements Task Force (GRTF) and was shocked. I then read the minutes of the meetings posted on the SBOE website, but saw no such recommendation.

Your proposal to remove all specifically named courses from the list of math (except Algebra I), science, social studies and English credit requirements for a DC high school diploma (these courses all have standards that the State Board adopted) would be a radical change that could lead to each LEA picking a random topics from each subject area, most likely taught online and assessed by online tests, approved by OSSE.  Has OSSE conducted any graduation compliance audits? That would give greater control over grades to LEA administrators and replace teachers with bots.

 

Coming right on the heels of your (Ms. Wilson-Phelan’s) vigorous promotion of competency-based education (replacing teachers with online programmed instruction), this new effort to radically rewrite the graduation requirements needs to be supported by facts and evidence:

A)  Clear descriptions (identified by sources or authors) of the obstacles or problems that each of the current requirements pose (e.g. if students are failing U.S. history or Geometry, GRTF members – and the public – need to know why.  You can’t solve a problem, if you don’t know why it’s a problem); and

B) Clear descriptions of how your proposed replacements will address the specific reasons that explain why students are failing each course

 

To that end, I make the following requests, which I hope all GRTF members will consider necessary in order to make informed decisions (the minutes show that several members have asked for evidence):

1. Can you provide evidence that each DCPS and DC charter high school requires every student to pass all 24.0 credits that the current DC graduation requirements specify?

In 2013, Mr. Hense, the founder and CEO of the Friendship charter schools, in testimony before the SBOE, submitted redacted transcripts from 3 Friendship Collegiate 2011 graduates as evidence of their achievement.  Two did not have U.S. History (the third took it at a previous school); three did not have the 2nd year of world history; all three had 9 or 10 courses whose credit values were inflated.     

 

2. How many students in each DCPS and charter high school needed one or more online credit recovery classes to receive the DC high school diploma in 2016 and 2017?

 

3. How many students were failing high school courses needed for graduation, but were certified to graduate in 2016 and 2017, because their teachers were pressured to give passing grades or because administrators changed failing grades to passing grades?

If you cannot get this information, will you ask the members of the SBOE to request an independent audit of all DC and charter high schools, such as the one reported this past week in Prince Georges County, MD?

I encourage you and GRTF and SBOE members to read the following three audits:

a) The newly released (10/31/2017) 211pp auditor’s report of the Prince Georges County PS investigation into allegations of grade changes, ineligible diploma awards, etc. in 20 of the 26 high schools:https://www.scribd.com/document/363400267/Report-finds-problems-with-Prince-George-s-Co-HS-graduation-rates#from_embed

 

b) Links to the two investigation reports that resulted from my discovery of altered grades and ineligible graduates at Wilson HS in 2002 and 2006. The first by contractor, Gardiner, Kamya & Assoc.; the second by the DC Inspector General:

 http://nonpartisaneducation.org/DCdocuments.htm

 

4. What is the source of your draft proposals?

 Please list the names and professional associations of any and all individuals, including registered lobbyists, DC OSSE officials or staff, education policy associations, DCPS officials, DC Public Charter School Board members and staff, DC charter operators, staff or board members, etc., who may have been in contact with you for the purpose of changing the graduation requirements that you are proposing. 

Since your proposal would lead to contracts with vendors of educational technology, online user licenses, etc., all of questionable educational value, it is important that GRTF members and the public know all of the details behind this unusual proposal.

 

I look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

Erich Martel

Retired DCPS high school teacher

(1969-2011: Cardozo HS, Wilson HS, Phelps ACE HS)

ehmartel@starpower.net

 

 

 

https://sboe.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/sboe/publication/attachments/%23DCGradReqs%20Meeting%207%20DRAFT%20Graduation%20Purpose%20and%20Examples.pdf

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Comparing Texas Charter and Public Schools

I am copying the entirety of this article. No comments needed from me. How about you? — GFB

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Game, Set, and Match—Texas SBOE Member Looks at the Numbers Comparing Charter and Traditional Schools

State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, has taken a look at the performance data of Texas charter schools and traditional public schools operated by independent school districts, and his findings give cold comfort to charter proponents. Here’s Ratliff’s report on those findings and his conclusions published July 13:

Every year the Texas Education Agency releases the “snapshot” of the prior school year’s academic and financial performance for ISD’s and charter schools. These are the facts from the 2012-13 school year (the most recently released report – released last week). Check them for yourself here: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/snapshot.

Thomas Ratliff

I offer the following key comparisons between ISDs and charter schools:

Dropout and Graduation Rates:

  • ISDs had a dropout rate of 1.5%, charters had a 5.5% dropout rate
  • ISDs had a 4-year graduation rate of 91%, charters had a 60.6% rate
  • ISDs had a 5-year graduation rate of 92.9%, charters had a 70% rate

Academic Performance:

  • ISDs outperformed charters on 3 out of 5 STAAR tests (Math, Science, Social Studies)
  • ISDs matched charters on the other 2 out of 5 STAAR tests(Reading and Writing)
  • ISDs tested 64.5% for college admissions, charters tested 44.2%
  • ISDs average SAT score was 1422, charters average was 1412
  • ISDs average ACT score was 20.6, charters average was 19.7

Staff expenditures & allocation:

  • ISDs spent 57.4% on instructional expenses, charters spent 50.9%
  • ISDs spent 6% [on] central administrative expenses, charters spent 13%
  • ISDs had 3.8% of employees in central or campus administrative roles
  • Charters had 7.6% of employees in central or campus administrative roles

Teacher salary/experience/turnover and class size

  • ISDs average teacher salary was $49,917, charters average was $43,669
  • ISDs had 15.3 students per teacher, charters had 16.8
  • ISDs had 32.1% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • Charters had 75.2% of teachers with less than 5 years experience
  • 24% of ISD teachers had advanced degrees, charters had 17.4%
  • ISDs had a teacher turnover rate of 15.6%, charters had 36.7%

Conclusions

Keep in mind these are statewide numbers and admittedly, there are good and bad ISDs and there are good and bad charter schools. But, at the end of the day, we are talking about the state of Texas as a whole and over 5 million kids and their families.

Here are the conclusions I reach after studying the data and talking to experts, educators and people in my district and across Texas.

1) For at least the second year in a row, ISDs outperformed charter schools on dropout rates, state tests, graduation rates, and college entrance exams. If charters are supposed to be competing with ISDs, they are getting beaten in straight sets (to use a tennis analogy).

2) Charter schools spend more on central administrative expenses and less in the classroom, which leads to larger classes being taught by less experienced teachers.

3) Charter schools pay their teachers $6,248 less per year than ISDs. Many refer to competition from charter schools as a key factor to improving education. I do not see this “competition” helping teachers as some try to claim. The fact is, charters hire teachers with less experience and education to save money. This results in a high turnover rate. Over a third of teachers at charter schools leave when they get more experience or more education. Many times, they go work for a nearby ISD.

In conclusion, when you hear the unending and unsubstantiated rhetoric about “failing public schools” from those that support vouchers or other “competitive” school models, it is important to have the facts. ISDs aren’t perfect, but they graduate more kids, keep more kids from dropping out and get more kids career and college ready than their politically connected competitors. Any claims to the contrary just simply are not supported by the facts and at the end of the day facts matter because these lives matter.

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