D.C. Teacher Turnover Exceeds National Average: Report

A report commissioned last spring by the DC State Board of Education found that the District’s teacher turnover is not only higher than in other comparable American cities, including New York, Chicago and Milwaukee, but higher than the national average.

It also found that schools with the highest percentages of at-risk students tend to suffer from the highest rates of teacher turnover.

The report, released Wednesday, was contracted with local education researcher and data analyst Mary Levy to better understand teacher turnover and its implications for the District’s public and charter schools and their students.

The report calls for a deeper investigation for retaining teachers.

“All too often, just as our students are beginning to reap the benefits of professional growth and gains in educator effectiveness, teachers leave – gone to new schools, new cities, or out of teaching altogether,” the two-page report states. “Years of hard-won classroom experience and professional development disappear, and schools must bring replacement hires up to speed, rebuild their school culture and expectations, and continue to serve students.”

The report documents “teacher attrition” rates for both local school systems using a combination of data sources that included annual performance reports, staff databases, and records acquired through the D.C. Council and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Because a common teacher turnover dataset that could be used as a baseline does not exist in the District, data were extracted instead from other records and manually assembled and cleaned, according to the report. As a result, teachers and principals could be observed, over time, leaving their jobs.

According to the report, the yearly teacher turnover rate after three years of service, is about 25 percent for both DCPS and public charter schools. Among a selection of urban districts, the District’s turnover rate compares to a national average of about16 percent and an average of 19 percent.

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