Teacher and Administrative Churn — It’s Not A Bug, It’s A Feature of Education Deform in DC and Elsewhere

Continuing to look at the report to the DC auditor’s department from EdCORE, let’s focus on what has happened to DCPS staff, both teachers and administrators. I lifted the following graphs from the report and added my own notations (mostly in red).

principal churn in dcpsAccording to the report, nearly two-thirds of all principals in DCPS have only one, two, or three years of experience in our system. Less than 16% of all DCPS principals had more than 6 years of experience in DCPS.

principal churn by poverty level

And it’s also clear that this principal churn hits high-poverty schools the hardest. As you can see above, in high-poverty schools, 71% of the principals are new, compared to only about 43% in the low-poverty schools. Constant churn of staff and administrators and teachers in high-poverty schools is profoundly demoralizing: teachers with connections to the community are able to relate to students because they know the parents well, often live in the community, belong to churches, coach sporting or other events, and have a profound, stabilizing impact. When a principal or teacher comes to a school and then leaves after a year or two (or less), and this pattern repeats over and over, then human connections are lost.

Interesting chart here shows that contrary to the anti-veteran-teacher propaganda, first- and second-year teachers get lower ratings on IMPACT than more seasoned teachers:

ratings for new and returning teachers - dcps - 2010-2011

This next graph shows that if you want to keep your job, it’s best not to teach in a high-poverty school. Teachers in low-poverty DC public schools are four times more likely to get a “Highly Effective” rating than teachers in a high-poverty school. And teachers in the high-poverty schools are three times more likely to get a “Minimally Effective” score than teachers in the low-poverty schools.

teacher ratings by school poverty 2010-2011

This next graph shows that as a consequence,  there is a much higher ‘churn’ rate in the high-poverty schools. 32% of the teachers leave the system EACH YEAR in the high-poverty schools, versus 13% in the low-poverty schools. movers leavers stayers in teachers by school poverty levelHow does this constant churn affect the students? It’s not good. See for yourself:

percent of students at or above prof in math by student ethnic and povertyAfter the uptick in scores resulting from teachers learning how to teach the test after SY 2006-7, there has not been the ‘smashing of the achievement gap’ that was predicted by the EduDeformers. Kids who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches still score the lowest; black students as a whole continue to score almost as low as them, and DC’s white students still continue to score at phenomenal levels.

(Note: Washington DC has essentially no white working class component. Almost all non-hispanic whites living in DC have either considerable wealth or a lot of education, or both. We don’t have uneducated white truck drivers or welders or white single moms who are high-school-dropouts working two crappy jobs. Clearly, we do have white waiters and bartenders and such, but they often have college degrees… and no kids… White DC students have the highest NAEP scores in every subject, year after year, than any other subgroup in any other state or city in the US. Don’t believe me? Look at the NAEP yourself.)

percent students at or above prof in reading by ethnicity and FRL eligibilityThe previous graph shows pretty much the same thing except I left “FRPL” as it was originally, instead of spelling it out; it means “Eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch” — if you are indeed eligible, then your family is poor. And, this is a graph for reading, instead of math.

percentage of students at or above prof in math by poverty decileThis is my last graph for today. I used their data and tried to make it clearer. It shows how students do by poverty decile of the student body as a whole. ‘First-decile’ schools means the 10% of schools — like Mann, Key, Janney, Lafayette and so on — that have the smallest fraction of FRPL students, i.e., poor kids. The tenth-decile schools are the schools with the highest fraction of kids in poverty — I’m willing to bet they found a lot of schools where the entire student body is eligible for free or reduced price lunches.

I did find it interesting that the kids in the tenth (last) decile actually outscored the students in the seventh decile. Not sure why that is.

Does Having A Staff of Brand-New Teachers Mean Student Success? In a word: NO.

Kaya Henderson testified at the City Council hearing yesterday that the new teachers who have been hired over the past four years (i.e., under the watch of Rhee and Henderson) are better than those whom they replaced (like me).

Does she have any evidence to back this up?

I doubt it.

My own research shows that there is essentially NO correlation between the median hire date of the staff at a school and the percentage of students at that school who were deemed “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the last DC-CAS of April 2011.

Look for yourself.


In case you are wondering ….

If having a brand-new staff was strongly correlated to higher scores, and having a veteran staff were likewise correlated with lower scores, then the graph would look something like this:

And if having veteran teachers guaranteed higher test scores, then the graph would look something like this:

That is, in the first hypothetical case, the overall slope of the data points would go up and to the right (and down to the left). In the second hypothetical case, the slope of the data points would be the opposite, i.e. from upper left to lower right.

Neither case holds water (all I did is delete some of the points).

Evidently, this much-vaunted churning of staff at most DC public schools has produced essentially NO good results. Just like everything else that the Chancellors have done.

Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm  Comments (3)  
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Troubling Signs at the WTU

I saw a serious sign of what I think ails the Washington Teachers’ Union when I walked briefly over to the Franciscan Center at 14th and Quincy Streets, NE, not far from my house, where a combined general WTU membership meeting/reception/comedian entertainment/holiday party was taking place this evening.

I think that this sign explains, in part, why the percentage of teachers voting during both rounds of the recent WTU leadership was so low.

The problem?

I saw almost no young white or Asian or Hispanic teachers. And, to be frank, I didn’t even see very many young African-American teachers. Nor much in the way of older white, Asian, or Hispanic teachers, either.

After a not-very-careful look at the heads and faces, I got the feeling that if I had actually stuck around and sat down, the number of white teachers in attendance would have gone up by somewhere between 20% and 100%. (Do a little bit of mental math: if one person comes in, and that makes the number of people in group W increase by 100%, then how many people were in group W before that person arrived?)

I fear that this means that those in attendance at this meeting were not very representative of the rank-and-file teacher corps in DC Public Schools. Younger teachers, be they white, black, Hispanic, or Asian, don’t seem to be stepping up to take leadership roles in the WTU, at least not in Saunders’ slate, which I guess was probably more represented at this meeting (though I don’t know that for a certainty). Perhaps they don’t have the tradition of activism and militancy that a lot of future teachers acquired who grew up and attended college in the 1960’s and 1970s, during the Vietnam and Civil Rights eras? Do they feel that the WTU leadership is out of touch with what they need?

At a lot of DC public and charter schools that I visit, there aren’t very many older black teachers left at all. They have generally retired, and have been replaced by young teachers (and a good fraction of those are TFAers, many of whom have no intention at all of staying in education, and 89% of whom are gone after 3 years). They find, of course, that almost all of the vaunted ‘reforms’ and ‘accountability’ that Michelle Rhee and her acolytes have imposed, simply mean lots of additional demands to perform the impossible, with less and less support. And, once they fail to achieve the impossible, they are then blamed, and are labeled in the media as being part of the problem, just like the veteran teachers that they are replacing. So they burn out… but could really use a union that advocated sanity and didn’t sell out and beg for more whippings in exchange for possibly imaginary pay increases.

It’s clear to me that if the WTU is actually going to be able to represent teachers in a positive and forceful way, so that it can help lead public education away from the clutches of the billionaires who want to take it over, then it needs to start working on its own composition.

Unions in the past that have failed to do this, have generally lost.

Dividing and conquering is a useful tool for a tiny ruling class: look what the British Empire was able to do for a couple of centuries. But it doesn’t work if you are the working mass of the population. United we stand, divided we fall.

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