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New Report Finds Teacher Turnover Higher in DC Than Other States

Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Calls for deeper investigation into retaining teachers

Washington, DC - In a report commissioned by the DC State Board of Education (SBOE), local education researcher and data analyst Mary Levy found that teacher turnover is higher in the District of Columbia than in other comparable American cities, including New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee, and higher than the national average. This report documents “teacher attrition” rates for both District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools using a combination of data sources, including annual performance reports, staff databases, and records acquired through the oversight function of the Council of the District of Columbia and from Freedom of Information Act requests. Based on the information collected, the SBOE has issued three recommendations.

Currently, there is not a common teacher turnover dataset in the District that could be used as a baseline: data were extracted instead from other records and manually assembled and cleaned. Through these data, teachers and principals could be observed leaving their schools over time. The report breaks down this turnover by grade level, sector, and in the case of DCPS, teacher IMPACT rating. The report also draws comparisons between the District and national averages, as well as comparisons to selected comparable urban school districts.

“The information uncovered by Ms. Levy has proved illuminating and vital to our goal of retaining the best teachers here in the District,” said Karen Williams, SBOE President and Ward 7 representative. “The data stands on its own and provides a starting point for very important conversations we must have with education stakeholders to determine a path forward.”

The yearly teacher turnover rate at the school level, averaged over three years, across both traditional public and public charter schools is about 25 percent, compared to a national average of approximately 16 percent and an average of 19 percent among a selection of urban districts. In both sectors, schools with the highest percentages of at-risk students tend to suffer from the highest rates of teacher turnover.

“This is useful information on the state of teaching and leading a school in Washington, DC. Teaching and school administration are among our society’s most important and difficult professions. We will continue working with public charter schools and leaders in the city on strategies to help reduce turnover and increase the talent pool of future teachers and school leaders,” said Scott Pearson, Executive Director, DC Public Charter School Board.

In May 2018, SBOE contracted with Mary Levy to produce a report on teacher turnover in the District of Columbia in order to better understand teacher attrition or turnover and its implications for District students and schools. The report establishes a foundation for a deeper investigation of the challenge of retaining highly effective teachers. The State Board will discuss the report this evening at its upcoming working session.

About the SBOE

The DC State Board of Education is an independent agency within the Government of the District of Columbia that advises the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the District’s state education agency. The State Board is comprised of nine elected representatives, each representing their respective wards, with one member representing DC at large, and two appointed student representatives. The State Board approves statewide education policies and sets academic standards, while OSSE oversees education within the District and manages federal education funding. More information about the SBOE can be found at