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Since 2007, when the flamboyant Disrupter Michelle Rhee took charge of the schools of D.C. with an unlimited grant of power—no checks, no balances, no constraints—the cheerleaders for Disruption (aka “Reform”) have made bold claims about the D.C. “miracle.” This despite a major cheating scandal that Rhee swept under the rug and despite a graduation rate scandal that followed a nonsensical, false claim by a high school that 100% of its students graduated.
Blogger Valerie Jablow reports that the D.C. public schools face a major crisis of teacher attrition.
In the wake of years of testimony about horrific treatment of DC teachers, SBOE last year commissioned a study by DC schools expert Mary Levy, which showed terrible attrition of teachers at our publicly funded schools, dwarfing attrition rates nationally.
An update to that 2018 study was just made available by SBOE and will be discussed at the meeting this week.
The update shows that while DCPS teacher and principal attrition rates have dropped slightly recently, they remain very high, with 70% of teachers leaving entirely by the 5-year mark (p. 32). Retention rates for DC’s charter schools are similar to those at DCPS–with the caveat that not only are they self-reported, but they are also not as complete and likely contain errors.
Perhaps the most stunning data point is that more than half of DCPS teachers leaving after 6 years are highly rated (p. 24). This suggests that the exodus of teachers from DC’s publicly funded schools is not merely a matter of weeding out poor performers (as DCPS’s response after p. 70 of this report suggests). Rather, it gives data credence to the terrifying possibility that good teachers are being relentlessly harassed until they give up and leave.
Sadly, that conclusion is the only one that makes sense to me, given that most of my kids’ teachers in my 14 years as a DCPS parent have left their schools–with only a few retiring after many years of service. Most of my kids’ teachers were both competent and caring. Perhaps not coincidentally, they almost always also lacked basic supplies that they ended up buying with their own money; were pressured to teach to tests that would be the basis of their and their principals’ evaluations; and feared reprisal for saying any of that.
(I’m hardly alone in that observation–read some teacher testimony for the SBOE meeting here, including that of a special education teacher, who notes that overwork with caseloads; lack of supplies; and increased class sizes for kids with disabilities are recurring factors at her school that directly lead to teacher burnout.)
In other words, high teacher attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools isn’t a bug but a feature.