With ever-present issues surrounding the Park City School District during the last few years, one of the things we’ve fallen back upon is the notion that at least we have good teachers. The people our children are directly in contact with are typically teachers and that counts for a lot. Thank goodness we have good teachers.
The old adage is that Park City teachers are paid better than Utah average (which isn’t saying much). Therefore, that money attracts the best and brightest to our community.
However, a recent editorial by Meg Leaf in the Park Record has made us wonder if money is enough to keep the best and brightest. In the editorial Ms Leaf makes a number of points:
- Park City has about 340 people who educate our children (teachers and assistants) .
- During the past 3 years, 172 of those people were hired and then subsequently left.
- That means 51% percent of our educators came and went in the last 3 years.
If the Park City School District were KFC, we would be doing great. Unfortunately, we probably expect a little more.
We visited with Ms Leaf about her data and she was happy to let us see it for ourselves. She kindly responded with data provided directly by the Park City School District.
There does appear to be about 340 teachers and assistants who teach children. Likewise, half of those people have turned over in three years. Ms Leaf cites a National Center for Education Statistics study (from 2011–2012) stating that 84 percent of public school teachers remained at the same school.
Our research shows that historically between 12% and 16% of teachers move schools or leave the profession every year, across the U.S.
Ms Leaf’s data shows that in Park City 16%-17% of Park City teachers leave every year (of of February 2017). So, our turnover is higher than the national average. Ms Leaf also compared Park City to other districts in Utah and one in California. This too showed higher turnover in Park City.
The difficulty with any of these comparisons is that knowing whether the comparison is apples to apples. We look at it a few ways. First, losing half the people who teach our kids in three year seems high. Second, looking at all industries, the average turnover is 15% per year. So, we aren’t doing as well as even the average of all industries. Finally, if we dig deeper into teacher turnover rates, those rates can be correlated with the number of children of free/reduced lunch programs. More students on these programs correlates with higher turnover.
District-wide, eighteen percent of Park City children participate in the free/reduce cost lunch program. Given the graph above, the national average turnover would be 12.8%. Again, we are above that with 16% turnover. So by a number of measures this seems to be an issue.
What’s going on? You don’t have to look much further than the teacher surveys from last year. In the Survey Feedback Overview, here are some of the comments highlighted:
- Stop:“Making decisions without educator input (ie. eliminating reading specialists)”
- “Take teacher input into consideration before adopting new “programs”
- Start: “Asking for teacher input and using teacher input to make district decisions”
- “Get teacher input BEFORE making decisions”
- Start: “gathering more input from teachers before making major decisions that impact teaching”
- “Listen to constituents “in the trenches” with respect to anything that the district is currently doing or considering changing”
- Start:“Listening to teachers about what needs to happen with the schools. We are in the trenches every day and know what needs to happen and what won’t be effective use of time and money”
- Start: “Really involving teachers of all disciplines and levels when making decisions about policy, programs, etc.”
- Start:“Ask for teacher input about major decisions like the removal of the ELA/Reading specialists”
- Start: “Listening to teachers. We have a lot to say, but no one really asks us what we think. If we are asked, OUR ideas are not really implemented”
That seems pretty clear.
Yet, almost a year after this survey was collected we were at a presentation by the school district pimping the need for adding on to the high school and the teachers’ opinions seemed to still be neglected. The presenter mentioned that the changes to high school may include “college like” offices for teachers who would rotate throughout the school without any fixed classroom of their own. The number of jaw-drops from teachers throughout the room was palpable.
So, our question is if we are one of the best school districts in the known universe, why do we have an attrition problem?
Can teachers make more money elsewhere? Park City has some of the highest paid teachers (per salary schedules) in Utah. However, maybe teachers are leaving Utah.
Are there better chances for teachers to “move up” elsewhere? Perhaps.
Do teachers just not like the feel of what’s going on here and money is not enough to keep them around? That seems very likely.
Without the best people, our district can’t be the best. We wonder what the impact of our attrition will ultimately be.
Perhaps most importantly, who (or what) is responsible for this attrition and how do we stop it?
Thanks to Meg Leaf for providing information