Fix my Life is a reality TV series hosted by life coach, Iyanla Vanzant. This TV program focuses on offering solutions guests present. When it comes to teacher churn in DC public schools, we are desperately in need of an intervention like the one offered on the Fix My Life TV series. We need to stop the purging of effective and highly effective educators through excessing which by definition is "an elimination of a teachers position due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring or change in the local school program where such an elimination is not a reduction in force or abolishment."
When the WTU Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was negotiated in 2010, little did many of our teachers know that an excess under this contract would likely lead to their termination as there would no longer be a requirement for teachers to be placed. Under this contract if teachers are unable to secure a position within the 60 calendar days following their excess through mutual consent, if they are probationary teachers - they are terminated from the school system. What the general public isn't aware of is that our effective and highly effective educators are among the growing pool of candidates facing termination from DCPS. Under the WTU CBA, effective and highly effective educators with permanent status are offered a series of three options if they are unable to find another position following the 60 days after excess. These three options include a $25,000 cash buyout, an early retirement option to eligible teachers and a one year placement option.
What's wrong with this picture? Teacher buyouts force our best teachers out and are costly to the District of Columbia and hurts our students. They also add to the pool of teachers who leave voluntarily, thereby creating a revolving door workforce. If DCPS can find monies to buy teachers out, then surely they should be able to brainstorm ways to financially support our public schools and retain good teachers.
What we know from the research is that high teacher turnover harms students. In a study titled "How Teacher Turnover Harms Student Achievement" by Matthew Ronfeld, Susanna Loeb and James Wycoff presented at the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research in 2012 - teacher turnover has a negative effect on student achievement in both math and reading. This study reveals that it is particularly harmful to the achievement of students in schools with large populations of low performing and black students.
In the words of Diane Ravitch, "good school districts don't have high attrition rates among teachers and principals. Good schools are schools professionals feel a part of and want to sustain and improve. Churn is not good for teachers and by now we know, it's not good for students." No creditable school system seeks to dismantle its effective teaching workforce.
My recommendation is to develop a plan which focuses on minimizing high rates of teacher turnover. We need to retain effective and highly effective educators, and work to develop and support novice teachers who shouldn't be expected to be proficient from the start.
Our first step should be to create a task force to review teacher churn. Next steps should include requesting detailed data from DCPS on teacher turnover rates including requesting the exact numbers of all educators who leave voluntarily and involuntarily with statistical breakdowns by race, gender, ward, school, years of teaching experience, date of hire, salary level, and Impact rating scores. Without this data, we are operating in the blind and unable to develop valid hypothesis, in addition we must demand to know the costs to the school district of teacher buyouts dating back to FY 2011.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Education Committee at this round table discussion.