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Teacher turnover gets more scrutiny

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, December 4, 2017

State education officials are watching closely to see if designation of school districts like Elizabeth City-Pasquotank as “low-performing” leads to increased teacher turnover.

Thus far, no alarming trend in teacher turnover is indicated for either the 2014-15 or 2015-16 school years. However, the statistical reporting by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction tracking that trend stays about a year behind because of the way information is collected and reviewed. 

DPI notes the average teacher turnover rate in the state rose from 11.17 percent in 2010-11 to 14.84 percent in 2014-15.

DPI’s 2014-15 report shows school districts in the Albemarle close to the state average. Three districts reported teacher turnover rates higher than the state average: Edenton-Chowan at 20.73 percent, Perquimans at 20.66 percent and ECPPS at 17.48 percent.

Currituck and Camden, meanwhile, were below the state average with teacher turnover rates of 12.6 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.

Northampton County reported the state’s highest teacher turnover rate in 2014-15: 33.55 percent.

A similar trend is reflected in DPI’s 2015-16 report, which focused not on turnover, which refers to teachers who leave a district for any reason, but on "attrition," which refers to teachers who leave teaching altogether. 

In 2015-16 the highest attrition rate reported in the Albemarle was Edenton-Chowan’s 16.56 percent. Perquimans reported an attrition rate of 12 percent, while ECPPS’ rate was 11.54 percent, Camden’s was 10.94 percent and Currituck’s was 10.28 percent.

With the designation of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools this year as a low-performing district, the DPI report's insight into the relationship between teacher turnover and a district’s designation as low-performing is of special interest to local officials.

Perhaps surprisingly, DPI analysts found no direct correlation between teacher turnover and a district’s designation as low-performing.

"There does not appear to be a strong association between teacher attrition, mobility, and recoupment rates and designation as a low-performing district," the report states. "With the exception of Northampton County Schools, these districts do not demonstrate a consistent departure from state averages on the three measures of teacher attrition, mobility, and recoupment."

The exception that was noted, Northampton County, had the state's highest attrition rate in 2015-16, with 31 of its 146 teachers departing for a rate of 21.23 percent.

But while the 2015-16 report suggests no obvious link between teacher turnover and low student achievement, it does note that a possible trend that bears watching is whether designation as a low-performing district will itself lead to an increase in teacher turnover.

"Given that the identification as a low-performing district was not publicized until October of 2016 (after the end of the measurement window), it might be that the rates of teacher departure will not be affected until the end of the 2016-2017 school year," the report states.

The report suggests DPI keep watch on teacher departure rates for local education agencies, or school districts, in the 2016-17 report on teacher attrition.

"If we see substantial changes in the teacher departure rates for these LEAs in the 2017 report, then it might be an indication that LEA-attrition rates do not contribute to lower proficiency rates, but that identification as a low-performing school results in higher attrition rates in the designated LEAs," the report states.

Information on teacher turnover for 2016-17 will be available in the spring but official numbers that reflect the designation of ECPPS as a low-performing district will not be available until spring 2019.

The 2015-16 report also takes a close look at "recoupment," a factor that was not tracked closely in reports from prior years. Recoupment is when teachers leave a position in one school district in the state to take a position in another school district, often one that’s nearby.

"The rate at which LEAs are able to attract teachers who are changing employment within the state and offset their own losses is referred to as the LEA recoupment rate," the report states. "The recoupment rate is the number of mobile teachers who appear on an LEA’s payroll in March 2016 divided by the total number of teachers who left that LEA during the measurement period."

The area school district with the highest recoupment rate was Perquimans, at 46.67 percent, followed by Edenton-Chowan, which reported a 44 percent rate.

Other area districts reported the following recoupment rates: Camden, 35.71 percent; ECPPS, 31.11 percent; and Currituck, 30.77 percent.

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