Long before the start of this academic year, data hinted at a mass exodus of District teachers from the classroom. Throughout the last several months, those numbers proved true as D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) launched several teacher recruitment campaigns as substitute teachers struggled to fill the gaps on meager salaries.
As they have shared with the Informer on numerous occasions, public and public charter school teachers either switched schools or left the profession out of frustration with the insistence of administrators to maintain the status quo. As the pandemic highlighted glaring inequities and an antiquated educational infrastructure, some teachers hoped that administrators and public officials would take notice and establish a new-age paradigm that prioritizes the needs of students, teachers and community members.
Instead they lamented that few, if any changes, were implemented. Not even ruminations about young people’s mental wellness served as reason for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to cease the norm of championing the standardized tests which often led to teachers’ dismay and students’ heightened anxiety. Not even an American University study about racial bias in IMPACT teacher evaluations could compel DCPS to alter its stance.
Meanwhile, public and public charter school teachers say they’re still expected to ensure students advance several grade levels ahead, even as they attempt to cope with circumstances beyond their control including COVID-19 or intracommunity violence which often prevented students from attending classes while further hindering their ability to grasp classroom material.
With these, and other factors remaining unresolved, teachers have reason to wonder if the next school year will be any better. Still, regardless of the circumstances, some teachers will stay for the sake of their students. But for others, even their love for their job will prove insufficient.
Perhaps it’s time for District leaders to seriously consider revamping the system with new initiatives that would both reinvigorate the teacher workforce and create an environment in which all stakeholders flourish. Now is as good a time as any while negotiations continue with the teachers’ union for a new contract.