Education Week - June 3, 2015 - (Page 16)

Charters Seek to Change Perceptions on Teacher Turnover CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 vigorated," Ms. Wagner-Friel said. "Having them lead a project has been helpful in getting them excited about the work again." High rates of attrition are a common criticism of the publicly funded, privately managed schools. And despite contested data about the phenomenon, some charter leaders acknowledge teacher turnover as a liability for the movement. "There's this narrative about charters burning and churning people and we do not in any way, shape, or form want to be a part of that," said Nella Garcia Urban, the vice president of talent for the Houston-based YES Prep school network. "We know that we see the greatest growth in our kids once our teachers have been with us about three years." Matters of Interpretation Three decades after the first charter opened, the image of the harried 20-something teacher burning out after 60-hour weeks in her charter school has become a stock type in education debates. But whether it's representative of the charter sector writ large is difficult to pin down. National data, for example, actually show a narrowing of the gap in teacher-retention rates between regular public schools and their charter brethren between 2008-09 and 2012-13, but offer few clues as to why. Analyses of specific regions or networks, on the other hand, show drastically different rates among schools and regions. (See sidebar, this page.) The second challenge is interpretive: Where teacher-attrition rates seem unreasonably high, are all the factors involved negative? Take the Los Angeles school district, where a 2011 study comparing charter and traditional school teachers between 2002-03 and 2008-09 found that charter teachers at the high school level were three times more likely to leave than their peers. But forthcoming studies seem to point to a mix of factors, including the start-up-like culture of the city's charters and the type of teachers who are attracted to them, said Bruce C. Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the co-authors of the Los Angeles research. "We see a lot of teachers who are super-bright, super-committed to the kids, but don't necessarily see teaching as a long-term career," Mr. Fuller said. "The second force is that the working conditions are invigorating, but also lead to high levels of burnout." All the same, critics contend that rather than addressing the problem, too many charters have instead worked high rates of teacher turnover into their models, to the detriment of students. "I think it's actually a feature of charter schools rather than a bug in them," said Brian Harris, the president of the Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, a Chicagobased union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers that now represents some 30 charter schools. "At its most basic, we work longer days and a longer year and we get paid less. You're not going to be able to hold teachers when there are schools all over the city that pay more for less hours." Criticism falls especially heavily on the mission-driven "no excuses" charter-management organizations, home to some of the highest-scoring charters nationally, such as the New York City-based Success Academies and the Knowledge Is Power Program, or kipp, which has schools in 20 states. Such schools typically couple extended learning hours for students with a strong emphasis on behavioral norms. As even those networks acknowledge, the work hours for teachers can be long and intense, although the groups say that much of that time is devoted to preparation and support, not just instruction. Pro and Con Complicating matters is the likelihood that some charters' higher turnover rates are at least partly attributable to the sector's rapid growth, especially within popular networks. Success Academies has added 18 schools since 2013, and it has relied heavily on current staff to move to the new buildings. In addition, some networks have relied on alternative-certification programs to meet hiring needs, including some, like Teach For America, that require only two years of teaching. In 2014-15, a third of the 10,400 Teach For America corps members worked in charter schools. Still, even some charter supporters agree that uncomfortable truths lurk behind the rhetoric about turnover. " There's this narrative about charters burning and churning people and we do not in any way, shape, or form want to be a part of that." NELLA GARCIA URBAN YES Prep Public Schools Conor Williams, a former teacher at the Crown Heights campus of the Achievement First network, in Brooklyn, recalled working a ninehour school day on top of grading and other duties. Like other such networks, Achievement First offered many opportunities to move quickly into new roles. But while the idea of advancing to a curriculum job was appealing, its potentially even longer hours weren't. "I was looking for some continued advancement, but also some professional sanity," said Mr. Williams, now a senior researcher at the Washington-based New America, a Public Charter Schools. "In my opinion, so long as teachers are producing results and impacting students in a positive way, and the school is able to attract new talent, it's not that big of a deal," Ms. Rees said. At E.L. Haynes, where retention think tank. (Achievement First did not respond to an interview request.) Within the diffuse charter community itself, the debate about whether-and how-to prioritize teacher-retention remains contested. High teacher turnover isn't intrinsically bad for students or teachers, contends Nina Rees, the president and ceo of the National Alliance for rates at the elementary campus have hovered around 75 percent to 80 percent annually, Ms. WagnerFriel sees the debate from two perspectives. She agrees that each teacher lost translates into the heavy workload of finding a new hire and inculcating him or her into the school's culture. On the other hand, some teachers' decisions to leave probably benefitted students overall. "Of course I want you to stay if you want to be here," she said of her teachers. "But if you don't, your kids are picking up on that. Your colleagues are picking up on that. Families are picking up on it. And it's impacting your work every single day." So why, in fits and starts, are some charters schools and networks thinking twice about teacher retention? Sometimes, it's context. In Memphis, Tenn., where the number of charter schools has ballooned since 2008, the competition for talent has made retention of skilled teachers a top priority for some. "The fight for talent is pretty A NARROWING GAP? Teacher-turnover rates at charters have fallen over time, a national survey indicates. But the averages still hide much variation among regions and networks. 24% Teacher-Retention Data For Charters Still Murky 12% By Stephen Sawchuk For all the anecdotal claims about teacher turnover in charter schools, the available data on the topic are remarkably muddled. The only national gauge of teacher-retention rates for charter school comes from a federally administered longitudinal survey of teachers conducted only every four years. The most recent federal study, for 2012-13, found that about 18.5 percent of teachers in charter schools left at the end of that school year, compared with 15.6 percent in regular public schools. Four years earlier, the gap was much wider: 23.8 percent of charter teachers in 2008-09, compared with 15.4 percent of teachers in regular schools. State and local data are also hard to come by, since teacher turnover is typically reported at the district rather than the school level. Texas, to take one exception, treats each charter as a district; five-year attrition rates for charter schools there ranged from about 26 percent to nearly 70 percent, the San Antonio Express News reported in a 2012 analysis. Even for states that keep records on teacher retention by school, the data are often incomplete or contested. Most gauges don't break out involuntary dismissals or other contributing factors. New York's most recent teacher-retention rates for schools date from 2012-13, and some of the state's approximately 285 charters are missing entirely. Meanwhile, attrition rates for several schools in the Success Academy charter network approached nearly 50 percent that year. But a spokeswoman for the network said the state figures were misleading because they didn't include some of the network's enrichment teachers. Major charter-management organizations either don't routinely release their rates or release them only at the network level. Actual building-level retention rates tend to be lower as a result of teachers' changing jobs or schools within a network. 2004-05 2008-09 2012-13 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education; David A. Stuit and Thomas M. Smith, Economics of Education Review n CHARTERS n TRADITIONAL 23.8% 18.5% 15.4% 15.6% Below are self-reported teacher-retention rates from selected charter-management organizations. Alliance for CollegeReady Public Schools 2013-14 26 schools: Los Angeles Network retention rate of 73 percent; school rates range from 53 percent to 100 percent Aspire Public Schools Three-year average, 2011-2014 38 schools: California; Memphis, Tenn. School retention rates of 78 percent to 88 percent KIPP 2013-14 162 schools: 20 states Network retention rate of 76 percent; average school retention rate of 70 percent Success Academies 2013-14 32 schools: New York City Network retention rate of 83 percent YES Prep 2013-14 13 schools: Houston Network rate of 76 percent SOURCE: Education Week 16 | EDUCATION WEEK | June 3, 2015 |

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 3, 2015

Education Week - June 3, 2015
New S.C. Standards Ease Political Pushback
Summer-Job Demand Outstrips Opportunities
Districts Use Student Insights To Guide Policy, Practice
Charters Look Anew At Teacher Retention
With Common Core, Algebra Course Undergoes a Face-Lift
News in Brief
Report Roundup
PARCC Shortens Testing Time, Shifts to Later in the School Year
Ties Deepening Between Schools, After-School Providers
Parent Engagement on Rise As Priority for Schools, Districts
Charter Sector Challenged by Caliber of School Boards
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: The E-Rate Overhaul in 4 Easy Charts
Studies Probe How Students Can Apply Math More Widely
NAEP to Gather Data on Grit, Mindset
Blogs of the Week
Teacher-Retention Data For Charters Still Murky
Stakes High for Bureau of Indian Education’s Overhaul
California Seeks Waiver on Use of Federal Title I Tutoring Money
Blogs of the Week
FRANCESCA STERNFELD: Necessary Lessons, Schools’ Critical Role in Reducing Family Violence
BENJAMIN RILEY: Can Teacher-Educators Learn From Medical-School Reform?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: States Should Ditch ‘Cut Scores’ on New Tests
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
TERRY B. GRIER: Creating a College-Bound Culture in an Urban School District

Education Week - June 3, 2015