Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Does the Tight School Budget Threaten Experienced Teachers?

Budget constraints appear to be leading some superintendents and principals to non-renew more experienced teachers in favor of cheaper, less experienced teachers. Given the volume of data underscoring the relationship between highly trained teachers and student achievement, this is a concern.

And the councern has reached the ears of some members of the state board of education.

I have been very pleased that over a 31-year career in Kenton and Fayette Counties, most of that as a principal, I was never once encouraged to hire a less qualified "cheaper" teacher. So such rumors, if true, are bothersome - particularly if they indicate a trend that leads to Kentucky children being taught by less capable folks.

It could also mean that Kentucky is leaning into a punch that's yet to be delivered.

In an effort to run down this rumor, KSN&C contacted KEA President Sharron Oxendine to see if she had received any such complaints. Oxendine reports,
“In the last three or four years we’ve heard this, particularly in eastern Kentucky.” A number of teachers are being let go “at the end of their fourth year” to save money.
This comes at a time when researchers are warning of a tsunami of baby boomers about to retire. USA Today reports that,

More than half the nation's teachers are Baby Boomers ages 50 and older and eligible for retirement over the next decade, a report says today. It warns that a retirement "tsunami" could rob schools of valuable experience.

The report by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future calls for school administrators to take immediate action to lower attrition rates and establish
programs that pass along valuable information from teaching veterans to new teachers.

"We face a tsunami in the shift of the future of the teachers' workforce," says Tom Carroll, president of the commission, who co-wrote the report. "Over the next five or six years, we could lose over a third of our teachers." ...

More than 40% of Kentucky's teachers are over the age of 50.

To make matters worse, retention rates for young teachers is pitiful. Schools lose about a third of their youngest teachers. A sufficient number of teachers are recruited at colleges and universities, but many leave the field within five years, Carroll says. "We're trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom, and we have been for decades," he says.

Oxendine also says she's concerned about rumors that in Fayette County this year, special education students “are being moved into collaboration and instructional assistants are being used to monitor” IEPs.

If true - this too would be bothersome. If fewer teachers are hired, in favor of more instructional aides who would work under the direction of regular classroom teachers, it's hard to imagine an improved situation for the district's neediest students. In addition, "are being moved" sounds like a district intervention rather than an independent decision made by each ARC.

FCPS spokesperson Lisa Deffendall told KSN&C that the rumor is "not true."

But that's not to suggest that the district is satisfied with the state of affairs in special education. Perhaps this is what lead to the rumor Oxendine heard.

Deffendall says that some other districts seem to be doing a better job with special needs students than Fayette County. To find out why, several schools have sent principals and teachers to study how other schools are achieving higher results. Many of those districts seem to be collaborating more than Fayette.

"If people are moving students to collaboration, it's kid by kid," Deffendall said. Regular education teachers are still responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring the students' Individual Education Plans.

The Cost of Teacher Turnover

When teachers leave their schools and districts, new teachers must be recruited, hired, and trained. NCTAF created a calculator to help estimate the cost of teacher turnover to a school or district.

There are two versions of the calculator; one for the general public and the second for school and district personnel, who may have specific data on teacher turnover and its costs.

Plug in some numbers. Read 'em and weep.

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