Committee of the Whole Public Hearing:
B24-355, “Statewide Data Warehouse Amendment Act of 2021” & Teacher and Principal Turnover vs. Retention in the District’s Public Schools
Education Reform Now DC
Good afternoon Chairman Mendelson, Councilmembers, and staff of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Minetre Martin. I am a ward four resident, former classroom teacher, and a Community Organizer for Education Reform Now DC (“ERN DC”). ERN DC is a non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all students in the District of Columbia.
As a former classroom educator, teacher and principal retention is a very important topic for me. Because the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) published a comprehensive Teacher Workforce Report in May, I believe we must use this time to understand this data to advance solutions where needed.
Overall facts about numbers of teachers and principals
- In the 2021-22 school year, the District of Columbia reported 251 schools in 70 local education agencies (LEAs). These LEAs employ 8,669 teachers, 219 principals, and 7,391 other school-based staff (190 school counselors, 737 special education support staff, and 6,464 other school-based staff) that serve 93,934 students.
- In the 2021-22 school year, 74 percent of teachers and 81 percent of principals were retained as teachers and principals in the same school at which they taught in the 2020-21 school year; 88 percent of teachers were retained, and 92 percent of principals were retained in DC altogether.
- Districtwide, the education system supports and retains teachers who are deemed effective by their employer at considerably higher rates than ineffective teachers.
Top reasons why teachers leave
- Lack of professional support from administration to address challenges (30.3%)
- Lack of respect from school and/or LEA administration (28.6%)
- General workload too great/overburdened (28.6%)
- Dislike reliance on teacher evaluation systems (25.0%)
- Not enough resources for discipline/behavioral issues with students (24.1%)
While many of the critical levers to improve teacher and principal retention lie at the local education agency (LEA) level. There are three key ways that the D.C. Council can help ensure the District has effective principals and teachers over the long-term.
- Ensure we have a diverse pipeline of highly-effective teachers.
The District must think creatively about how we incentivize students to become effective teachers and principals. Recently, the D.C. Council passed into law the Budget Support Act of 2021, which included the subtitle “Teacher Preparation Pipeline.” to ensure the District has a “Grow Your Own Teacher Preparation Support Program.” Now that it has been a full year since its passage, I urge the D.C. Council to follow-up on this program to ensure it is moving forward as envisioned.
Teachers who live or were born and raised in the District or who lived in their school community taught me the most about the students and families I served. They were a major reason why many of us stayed. Better relationships between teachers and students lead to better learning, and those relationships are easier to develop when teachers know their students’ neighborhoods, which brings me to my next recommendation.
- Continue to create affordable housing options for all educators and school staff in the District of Columbia
It is increasingly expensive for educators and school staff to live in the District of Columbia. In fact, over half of our educators live in Maryland or Virginia. The District should continue to create affordable housing options for all educators and school staff.
Recently, the D.C. Council amended the First Responder grant in the Employer-Assisted Housing Program (EAHP) so that all DCPS and charter school educators are eligible. However, during this process, the D.C. Council removed eligibility for charter school employees to participate in the underlying EAHP program. All school staff are vital to the operations of schools, so they should be eligible for the EAHP program as well, particularly because they are often paid the least.
- Offer free structured literacy training to all K-5 educators.
Policymakers must support a citywide literacy intervention based on the science of reading to provide educators with a deeper understanding of how students learn to read. With 74% of D.C. students not proficient in reading by fourth grade, according to the 2022 NAEP scores, the District has a responsibility to ensure all teachers are supported during these unprecedented times that have exacerbated deficits and offset our mission to ensure students are proficient in reading. We applaud the D.C. Council for passing into law the Structured Literacy Training Action Plan in the Budget Support Act of 2022. We still have work to do to ensure this expansion happens effectively.
As the District invests in teacher and principal recruitment and retention efforts, we hope the D.C. Council will work to ensure there is a diverse teacher pipeline development system, all staff can live where they serve, and that all k-5 educators are supported through free structured literacy training.
Bill 24-355, “Statewide Data Warehouse Amendment Act of 2021
We applaud the State Board for endeavoring to strengthen our data warehouse and pushing for more transparency of teacher retention data. However, we believe the legislation under consideration is unnecessary and presents a few issues. OSSE already collects much of this data and makes it available to the public. Annual collection of existing teacher data is challenging to collect and would cause a burden. Unique teacher identifier information should be kept for internal purposes for privacy reasons. Lastly, the State Board already has access to government officials, documents, and data.
Thank you for allowing me to testify today. I welcome any questions you may have.