Valerie Jablow, D.C. parent, blogger, and activist, read two reports on teacher and principal attrition and retention. One of them was prepared by the highly respected D.C. civil rights attorney Mary Levy, who has been tracking data in D.C. for many years. Levy looked at both public schools and charter schools.

One conclusion: staff turnover is startlingly high, especially in schools with the most disadvantaged students.

Overall, our public school teacher turnover rates dwarf national averages and have socioeconomic implications, such that the more at risk students a school has, the higher its teacher turnover. The data examined by Levy from the last 3 years alone show that fully a quarter of our public school teachers leave each year—a much higher rate than other jurisdictions. The result is that over half a decade, most of our publicly funded schools will see the majority of their teachers leave.

Our DC public school principal turnover is high as well, averaging about 25% annually. Although that is closer to the national average for principal turnover, in DC it is (like teacher turnover) also correlated with socioeconomics, such that schools with the most at risk students often have the most principal turnover.

Levy had to hand-calculate some of the data because data-collection is slipshod:

For one, we have this data on teacher turnover in DCPS only because Levy herself has spent years comparing staff rosters for individual DCPS schools and budgets and reported what she found. Consider, for a moment, the painful irony of Levy being commissioned to do a report on teacher attrition in DCPS through a painstaking process of backing out data that the school system may already have in a better format–and, for all any of us knows, could provide in a much easier way.

For another, the charter school data on teacher turnover is suspect, as Levy discovered that a number of charter schools appeared to have confused teacher attrition with retention in their required annual reports.

Thus, whenever the reported teacher attrition rate in a charter school was higher than 50%, Levy painstakingly compared staff rosters from one year to the next in the same school. Roster comparisons were, however, inexact because different schools defined “teacher” in different ways, and the rosters themselves changed in form and format from year to year. (Not to mention that the attrition/retention confusion happened within LEAs–so each school had to be looked at separately.) Nonetheless, Levy recorded how many teachers appeared to stay and leave each year; used that to determine whether the reported high rate of attrition above 50% was accurate; and, if it was not accurate, flipped the percentage.

Imagine that! The schools reporting data often didn’t know the difference between retention and attrition! Are any of the data credible when the people responsible for reporting don’t inow the meaning of basic terminology?

D.C. public schools have been controlled by the mayor and by “reformers” including Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson (now looking for a new chancellor since Antwan Wilson left) since 2007, and there in no accurate data collection and analysis program.

Foundations including Gates, Walton, and Broad have poured tens of millions into DCPS, and there is no accurate collection and analysis program.

Whenever D.C. makes a claim about graduation rates, test scores, teacher and principal attrition and retention, they are probably just guessing. Or boasting. They really don’t know.

If you want to learn more, you can attend this meeting:

This Wednesday November 28, from 6 pm-8 pm, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) and teacher advocacy group EmpowerEd will hold a joint forum on staff retention in DC’s publicly funded schools. The forum will be held at Walker-Jones Education Campus, 1125 New Jersey Ave. NW. RSVP here.