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Drugs in schools

Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

Small high schools, once heralded as a way to build stronger
relationships between teachers and students, have some of the highest
rates of teacher turnover in the district. This is one of the more
interesting findings from the report The Schools Teachers Leave,
released today by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Linking teacher personnel data, survey data and information about
schools and communities, researchers found that Chicago’s one-year
turnover rate is similar to that of other schools in Illinois and
across the nation: about 80 percent of teachers stay at their school
from one year to the next. But within five years, most CPS schools lose
about half of their teachers.

Small high schools, once heralded as a way to build stronger relationships between teachers and students, have some of the highest rates of teacher turnover in the district. This is one of the more interesting findings from the report The Schools Teachers Leave, released today by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Linking teacher personnel data, survey data and information about schools and communities, researchers found that Chicago’s one-year turnover rate is similar to that of other schools in Illinois and across the nation: about 80 percent of teachers stay at their school from one year to the next. But within five years, most CPS schools lose about half of their teachers.

At both the elementary and high school level, small schools had higher turnover than larger schools. Elementary schools with more than 700 students retained 83 percent of their teachers from year-to-year, compared to just 78 percent at schools with fewer than 350 students. Similarly, larger high schools retained 83 percent of teachers; small high schools, just 73 percent.

Another interesting finding: CPS teachers are less likely to move from school to school over a four-year period, but they are more likely to leave the district.

Researchers identified 100 schools with the highest turnover, and these schools are found mostly in poor black communities.

Still, the fact that half of a school’s teaching staff changes over five years has negative consequences. Any new initiative or professional development winds up having little time to take root, and turnover forces principals to spend an inordinate amount of time on recruiting and hiring teachers.

Why teachers leave ... or stay

Much of the report seeks to pinpoint why teachers leave.

At small high schools, researchers said that more intensive work may be required, as teachers are supposed to reach out and bond with students. Also, school conflicts might be more acute.

Although a teacher’s race had little correlation with turnover, the report did note that stability is declining for white teachers. And white and Latino teachers were found to be least likely to remain in predominantly black elementary schools.

Experience and age were found to be the strongest predictors of turnover. New, young teachers, and older teachers who are closer to retirement, are the most likely to leave.

How teachers feel about their experience has a big impact on whether they stay in schools. Teachers often reported that they leave because they don’t have strong relationships with parents and they have a hard time managing student behavior. Teachers tend to stay in schools where principals allow them to collaborate and feel as though they are working with other teachers as partners.

Clarissa Williams, a special education teacher at Altgeld Elementary, reiterated many of the points from the study. Recalling her first year teaching, Williams says she believes young teachers are overwhelmed by the demands of managing student behavior, the challenges in the community and the difficulties of navigating a massive school system. When the upper-level administrators don’t inform teachers of what is going on, she adds, teachers sometimes feel alienated.

Williams also says teachers sometimes don’t feel safe in the surrounding neighborhood.

However, after three years, Williams says she’s sticking around. Many teachers and principals talk about their passion for the work and how that passion is a necessity for a  successful teacher. For Williams, that rings true.

“I feel like I have a higher calling,” she says. “I feel like kids in this area need and deserve the best teachers.”

12 comments

No support or competnent leadership from top makes workplace wrote 5 years 17 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

The extremely short instructional school day is a factor. High stakes testing is done in early March. With out a longer instructional day and regular time for collaboration, especially in the neediest areas makes the workplace. Why there is no competent teacher leadership capacity building process to build professionalism and community among staff and their principal is beyond me. The fault lies in lack of leadership at the top and lack of supporting schools in developing a sense of a professional community. Funny that the teacher survey given at the end of the year DOESN'T ask any questions about thoughts regarding the middle layer and top administrators. What is the consortium scared of? Professional Development done by area folks is around content area and not building community. Why?

Mike Klonsky wrote 5 years 17 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

The Consortium report is misleading on the subject of teacher attrition rates and small schools. If you look only at percentages, the loss of 2 teachers in a small schools could be 20-40 percent of its faculty. A more important indicator in the study summed up in this statement: "the schools that retain their teachers at high rates are those with a strong sense of collaboration among teachers and the principal." That what small schools are supposed to be.

I'm surprised you didn't mention that the Consortium report never even looked at charter schools or considered the impact Renaissance 2010 has had on teacher attrition and burnout. Also missing is anything on TFA, who's teachers last, on average, 4 years.

http://michaelklonsky.blogspot.com/2009/06/latest-on-chicago-schools-mir...

Debby wrote 5 years 17 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

From talking to many teachers throughout the system I would say that there are several factors that influence CPS's ongoing retention problems.
One of the primary factors is the explosion of charter schools where teachers' jobs are much less stable since they have no union and no contract to protect them from capricious administrators. Another is the concurrent destruction of dozens of neighborhood schools in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods by the draconian school closings that have abounded in the last five years. How do those teachers feel about CPS? Do they find it easy to get jobs in other schools? Do they feel appreciated and welcomed for the challenging job they have performed to the best of their ability?
Another factor is that a large number of new teachers are from Teach for America. While many of these young people are fabulous, enthusiastic teachers, they are less prepared for what the classroom holds than regularly certified teachers. Also, many of them view this as a two year interlude of public service before returning to grad school or entering other, perhaps more renumerative, fields of work.
Last but not least, what about the over-full classrooms? The lack of resources? The inadequate disciplinary backup? Could these be factors affecting turnover???

cermak_rd wrote 5 years 17 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

I would think a charter school might be better for a new teacher that wants to make a difference. After all, every student in a charter school has parents that want that child in that school. So I would think that relationships with parents would be better and less confrontational.

Marcia Williams wrote 5 years 17 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

Is anyone really surprise by this study? Anyone who has been in the system for any time, knew this. And as far as charter schools, charters are good for some parents and principals, but for the long run it's doesn't do highly educated teachers any justice. One of the factors besides, abusive principals, is in alot of charter schools, the pay is much lower than standard public schools. And at many charters, teachers and other staff may not receive health benefits. The hours are long, with little or few breaks for a teacher to regroup and to reenergize. But, this is never disclosed when pushing charter schools. In the public schools, this high turn over rate is also caused due to the "click out" options many principals have exercised. Then there are the new teachers who are abused more so by principals than many of the veteran teachers. Veteran teachers have just learned to put up with the abuse and know they have just a little more time to go before retiring, so they endure it. The new teachers leave because they know they have an option and so they move on to another school or a new school district and in some cases into other careers. But, can anyone blame theses teacher for leaving for whatever reason? CPS needs to learn how to value their employees instead of hiding their heads in the sand and pretending there isn't a problem. I wonder what the turn over rate is at the CTA or the Chicago Police Department? These are the two agencies Ron Huberman worked for and was in charge of.

Isolation wrote 5 years 17 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

Isolation is a killer! Organizational healthy school operations and support for collaboration should be worked on. Otherwise, teachers will continue to leave and go to the suburbs. I already see good student teachers going for jobs in the suburbs. Sad!

Ted wrote 5 years 16 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

I've seen many young, new teachers enter--and leave--my school. We invested lots of time, money, energy, and other resources (above and beyond what CPS mandated or provided) on these folks, only to have most of them leacve after a year or two. Why? For the most part, they wanted "greener grass." A huge problem with the "kids" coming out of college these days (for the last 10+ years) is they have no sense of loyalty or commitment. For them, teaching is just a job, not a career. Especially now with the suck-y economy, teaching is a sure thing, until something better comes up. I really don't think that they leave for the multitude of reasons cited. They're just using those as excused for their own lack of heart.

The Cow wrote 5 years 16 weeks ago

The "greener grass"

Hi there Ted,
I've been teaching 4 years, and I'd be a fool if I wasn't looking for "greener pastures." The difference between what I make now and what I could make is easily $7,000 to $12,000 annually. I could drive 2 minutes away, 15 minutes away, or stick with my standard 30 minute commute. Instead of a 7.5 hour work day, I could have a 7.25 or 7 hour work day. By changing my school, I could easily save 45 minutes a day in travel and another 30 minutes of being at work.

You see, no matter where a teacher works, the same bull is going to occur. I'm still going to bust my hump to make sure I do the best job I can do, regardless of it being a 6 hour day or a 10 hour day; a low paying job or a high paying job. I'm still going to do what I do best: teach.

The students aren't that much different. As much as we like to stereotype our students, they are still people and, deep down, they are a lot more alike than they are different. Suburbs versus city -- it's a different circus, but the same clowns are there. Before anyone chokes on their coffee, it's called dry humor. I love my students, but there are days where I'd like to throttle them. City or suburbs, teenagers will find a way to inflict the desire to pull out one's hair.

What I'm getting at is this: Ted, you think young teachers simply lack loyalty towards the school. Instead, you might want to realize that their schools aren't loyal to them.

To me, it doesn't matter where I teach. I love teaching. But love doesn't pay the bills. If it does, please contact my landlord. If I'm going to come home totally exhausted and mentally fried, I could at least have a shorter commute or a better salary. Not that a few hundred bucks will make me less fried, but it'd definitely allow me to go get a massage! :-)

Typically, people who claim teachers are disloyal to the school are the same people who are busy trying to sucker the teachers into doing everything while getting paid nothing. "Oh Jane! I'm so glad I ran into you. I was wondering if you would coach softball with no stipend. You know how much the kids just adore you -- you'd be perfect for it. Sadly our former coach quit; she just wasn't as true to the school as you are." You can't burn out your teachers or treat them like crap, then wonder why they leave.

I'll go back to munching on my slightly burnt, more or less green grass...

Tonya wrote 5 years 16 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

The issue of teacher turnover is huge. One way to combat this is to offer new teachers support that focuses on their specific needs. Chicago New Teacher Center (CNTC) offers this support through one-on-one coaching, classroom observations, targeted professional development and by creating a community of teachers who can collaborate regularly. If new teachers actively participate in the coaching and support offered by CNTC, the teacher turnover rate would drastically decrease. Teachers need support and opportunities for collaboration...that will keep them in the classroom longer and will help them to be more effective teachers.

Claire Falk wrote 5 years 16 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

I spent thirty years in private industry and if any large corporation lost 50% of its employees every 5 years there are people at the top who would want to know why and there would be heads rolling. No large company/organization can do its best when half of its best are leaving within 5 years. An investment has been made in these employees. They have experience. They are coming into their own as excellent teachers, students have become attached and rely on them and suddenly, they are gone to another district. It is a loss that cannot be sustained.

CPS will never have the success it wants unless it can keep its highly qualified teachers. Small schools are not the answer to keeping teachers, nor are charter schools. Little good education will take place unless teacher retention becomes a priority. CPS has a highly educate workforce and treating them like people with less than a room temperature IQ is not helpful. We can all go somewhere else and get a job and it seems from the study many are doing just that. Other districts are happy to have CPS teachers. Why isn't CPS?

Lynn wrote 5 years 16 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

There are myriad factors effecting teacher turnover:

New teachers are entering a system that is worse than it used to be. Veteran teachers (like one above) who claim that turnover is a lack of loyalty are forgetting that the school system has changed drastically in the last 10 years; teachers don't know whether their school is going to be open the next year. They don't know what type of weird restructuring is going to happen next school year, or if the school is going to purchase a whole new curriculum without any consultation of its direct line staff. Yes, things like this have happened over the last few decades, but not to this extent. Who wants to stay in a school that is unstable, untrusting, and in danger of closing?

Secondly, tenure is not what it used to be. Ren10 and Turnaround programming have usurped some of the stability that used to come with tenure. Five tenured teachers just got let go at my CPS school this June. They are given the option to cadre sub, but what the heck is that?

Why would someone stay at a school with limited resources that is bleeding from the inside out? Many kids are leaving to charters, many principals are coming from previous careers in business and have no idea how to be an education leader, and many teachers are making choices that keep them sane.

But most importantly, many teachers are trying to find schools that still let them do what they do best: educate. Read and write and discuss and deconstruct with their students. Choose books that matter, and give assignments (and tests) that matter.

Kathy wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

New research pinpoints factors that affect teacher turnover

I realize I'm coming late to the discussion but as a former CPS teacher who opted out I was surprised not to see my reason discussed here. Less than a year into my cps tenure I saw teachers who had stayed, and barely survived much-less than ideal work conditions (crumblng buildings, abusive administrators, unreasonable class sizes, etc, etc, etc) year in and year out. When asked why, they consistently explained that they were "trapped" by the pension system. They were midway through a career and had reached a point of dependency upon their pension to retire. But, as CPS is in a seperate pension from the rest of the state's schools, they could not seek other opportunities outside of CPS. Their stress was intensified by the requirement that they live within the city and struggle through the system of educating their own children in CPS, or by paying for private education... I was warned time and time again, "if you think you may want to raise your children in the suburbs, get out before you hit 5 years." If not, you'll be so invested in the pension it will be difficult to ever leave...

Honestly, the grass isn't necessarily greener in the suburbs. But, my options are much greater. As my husband seeks higher paying work (someone has to pay the bills) and we seek the schools that best fit our children's needs, I can seek employment in a school district that makes sense for our family; without concern for lost pensionable years.

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