In New York City — "District D" — there was virtually no difference in turnover rates based on teacher performance.
Getting rid of weak teachers doesn't always require massive policy changes. Sometimes all it takes is a nudge, a new study on teacher turnover suggests.
When New York City principals told low-rated teachers that they were deficient, the teachers were three times more likely to leave the school, according to the study, released today by TNTP, a group that advocates for aggressive changes to hiring and firing practices in public schools.
Convincing the best teachers to stay is just as easy as counseling the weak ones out, the study suggests. Top-rated teachers said they were more likely to stay if their principals gave them more constructive feedback and more public recognition for their efforts, but two-thirds of them reported that their principals did not even encourage them to return to their school.
The study is a follow-up to TNTP's 2009 influential "Widget Effect" report, which urged school districts to revamp teacher evaluations. In the new report, the group focuses on how districts can hold on to teachers determined to be the best. Districts don't make a special effort to keep those teachers, termed "Irreplaceables" in the report, and when they leave, schools are highly unlikely to hire teachers who are anywhere near as strong, the report concludes.
Some of the report's findings represent low-cost, easy-to-implement alternatives to some of the other policies TNTP has pushed, including firing teachers who don't have permanent positions and doing away with seniority-based layoffs.
More than half of teachers in city middle schools left their schools within three years, and most left teaching altogether, according to a new study that offers little insight about how to stem the exodus.
The study was presented yesterday at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management's fall meeting, as part of a panel on teacher turnover. Will Marinell, a member of the Research Alliance, the independent body of researchers given access to city Department of Education data, and Teachers College professor Aaron Pallas conducted the analysis.
Mining data about teachers and their paths within the school system, the researchers found that 55 percent of middle school teachers leave their school within three years, higher than in elementary and high schools. They also found that their decision to leave was likely influenced more by their individual characteristics, such as their commute time and race, than by anything about their school.
According to the analysis, teachers are more likely to stay in their schools when students disproportionately share their race. In Manhattan, two-thirds of middle school teachers left within three years, the highest exit rate of any borough. Middle school teachers are more likely to consider leaving their school when they have a long commute or are required to teach a new subject. And teachers in schools that suspend many students are more likely to consider finding a new job.
"These rates of turnover are likely to make it challenging for middle school principals, and the teachers who remain in their schools, to establish organizational norms and a shared vision for their schools' teaching and learning environment," the study concludes.
Chancellor Cathie Black showed what she has learned and what she hasn't in her first month on the job on NY1 last night.
Chancellor Cathie Black's interview on Inside City Hall last night is worth watching in full. The interview exposes just how much Black has been able to absorb in her first month on the job — and how much she hasn't.
In a moment first highlighted by NY1 education reporter Lindsey Christ on Twitter, Black declared, "The public school system in New York City has been unbelievably successful since the birth of our nation." She was responding to a question from host Errol Louis about why she chose to send her children to private rather than public city schools.
Black did not elaborate, but the statement is confusing given that public schools in New York City did not emerge until the early 1800s.
Another moment of exposure had to do with teacher attrition. After a discussion about the "last in, first out" policy, Louis asked Black if she was concerned that almost half of New York City school teachers leave after 6 years in the classroom (PDF link).
Here's how Black responded:
Well you have to know, like, what's really at the heart of the issue. I don't know that we know what's really at the heart of the issue. Teaching is a hard job. We want the ones who are committed. We want the ones who make a difference. We want the ones who want to work hard and really change the lives of these young people. They're there on a mission. So, you know, some are going to leave.
She then returned to the "last in, first out" question, arguing that perhaps teachers would be less likely to leave if they weren't concerned about being laid off. "Right now there have to be a lot of teachers thinking, 'Maybe I don't have a job next year.' Can we afford to have thousands of teachers think to themselves, 'I have to leave the system now because I may not have a job in a few months?' That's going to be a catastrophe," she said.
For years, researchers have asked why teachers leave schools — particularly struggling schools. A 2007 paper by a group studying New York City teachers, the Teacher Pathways Project, summarized the major findings this way:
"Teachers are more likely to stay in schools in which student achievement is higher and teachers — especially white teachers — are more likely to stay in schools with higher proportions of white students."
"Teachers who score higher on tests of academic achievement are more likely to leave," as are teachers from out of town.
Less-qualified teachers are more likely to stay at a school than teachers with higher qualifications, "especially if they teach in low-achieving schools."