High Teacher Turnover in NC Public Schools Needs a Solution

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Low-achieving and high poverty schools are especially plagued with a high turnover rate for teachers. Raleigh politicians need to find a solution that enables teachers to be recognized and rewarded for trying to better these schools. 

Read the editorial from the Winston-Salem Journal, 

For the majority of higher-achieving schools in the district, turnover rates exceed district and state averages rarely, only a handful of times over the past five years.

A graph showing turnover rates at priority schools against state and district averages looks almost like a mirror image of the same graph for the district’s highest-achieving schools.

Studies have found that high-quality teachers are the most important factor in student achievement — critical in turning around struggling schools, which often struggle because of students who come into school behind. A highly effective teacher is “the major factor influencing student academic gain,” according to a study from the University of Tennessee.

Top teachers are necessary for struggling schools to make the academic gains needed to turn around and overcome the challenges that come with high populations of low-income students and kids who enter school behind their peers. Those teachers are more likely to seek employment in higher achieving schools, though. And any teacher in a low-performing school is more likely to leave, potentially upending valuable consistency and taking with them investments made by the school, like professional development.

As the district works to implement turnaround models in these 11 struggling schools for next year, teacher turnover will have to be addressed.

“I think it’s critically important,” said Kenneth Simington, chief academic officer for the district. “It’s one of the challenges we have. In a school that’s a low-poverty school, there are certainly students who have social challenges, economic challenges. In a school where the majority, if not all, of the students have those challenges… it can be wearing on a person.

“How do we provide the support for teachers over time who come in fired up for that challenge? How do we work with them such that they are able to sustain that enthusiasm and passion more than two or three years?”

Those are questions that don’t necessarily have answers yet. While other school districts — and even some schools within Forsyth County — have made progress on that front, there are so many factors that are part of the equation, that vary from school to school and change regularly, that there is no easy answer.

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