Monday, February 01, 2010

Charter Churn

This article discusses the high teacher turnover at charter schools in Texas, which mirrors one of the biggest challenges to successful charter schools nationwide.  Let's be clear, however: some turnover is healthy and the ultra-low turnover in many public schools is NOT a good thing, as it reflects a system that protects even the very worst teachers (who are generally the ones least likely to leave because of poor job prospects elsewhere).  Here are a friend's comments on this article:


There's clearly some truth to it....if you make TFA a big part of your new teacher pipeline, the downside is that their turnover will be higher, but the quality of who stays will be higher than what you could normally recruit. Some leave for more money once they get experience because high performing charters don't get the same funding and can't pay as much and have longer hours because we believe there aren't any shortcuts in bringing kids up to grade have to be in the classroom longer. At [the high-performing charter school network I'm involved with], we also focus more on forced turnover at the bottom which rarely occurs in traditional ISD's. The more success we can have is stressing within our organization that teaching is a profession and not a calling, with merit pay, ongoing development/leadership training, etc., the better our retention will be, especially if we can get the same funding per student as our district friends.


Charter Churn
by Brian Thevenot
January 27, 2010

At some charter schools in Texas, it's the teachers who can't wait to clear out at the end of the school year.

At Accelerated Intermediate Academy in Houston, 79 percent of the faculty turned over before the 2008-09 school year, according to recently released state data. At Peak Preparatory in Dallas, 71 percent did not return. At Harmony Science Academy in College Station, part of Harmony's nine-school statewide network, 69 percent of teachers split. (Officials at all three schools did not respond to requests for comment.)

In all, more than 40 of nearly 200 charter operators the state tracked some which oversee multiple schools had to replace more than half their teaching staffs before the last school year. Even more established and successful operators, including KIPP and YES Prep in Houston, lose nearly a third of their teachers annually. In contrast, just six of more than 1,000 non-charter school districts statewide had more than half their teachers leave, and none of the 20 largest school districts had a turnover rate higher than 16 percent. (Austin ISD had the highest.)

While the new state data provides figures for individual school districts and charter operators, it doesn't include comparative statewide averages. However, a study of 2006-07 data by the Texas Center for Educational Research put the average teacher turnover for all charters at 43 percent, compared to 16 percent for traditional public school districts that year.

The comparison isn't perfect, in part because district-wide data doesn't account for teachers who left one school within a district for another, but the high turnover rates of so many charter operators clearly creates problems, charter advocates acknowledge. Just as with any business experiencing high employee turnover, the churn of teachers at a school can be a sign of tumult and instability, redirecting time and money into perpetual hiring and training.

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