A response on Teacher Turnover by the Park City School District
On Friday, Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley sent an email to employees in regard to teacher turnover. It seems citizen, Meg Leaf, hit a nerve with her editorial in the Park Record regarding purported turnover of teachers in the district. Ms. Leaf noted turnover rates of over 50% of teachers, assistants, and aides during the last 3 years. Dr Conley’s email stated:
Dear PCSD Staff,
First, enjoy your upcoming spring break. I am wishing each of you a time to refresh and come back strong to finish out the rest of this school year.
You have likely been fielding many questions lately, ranging from the need for bond projects, why the projects are so expensive this time around, Park City teacher turnover rates, changes to start times, etc. I want you to have the most up-to-date and accurate information, so I will send a weekly note with a (quick!) look at items of interest. I will also be posting these on the website, so please feel free to share the content.
A recent editorial in the Park Record mentioned, “Change is appropriate when fully understood and vetted, thoughtfully planned with stakeholders, and well executed across a timeline that works.” I couldn’t agree more. This email is one step of many I’m taking to make sure you have access to provide input on the ground floor for all upcoming ideas and projects. I want to hear your voices to achieve full understanding, then move together toward planning and execution.
That said, I’d like to take a moment to talk about another item in the aforementioned editorial: our teacher turnover rate.
For the last three years, PCSD *teacher* turnover rate is as follows:
2014 – 9%,
2015 – 10%,
2016 – 13%
We provide the opportunity for exit interviews, and those who participate are encouraged to be candid about why they have made the decision to leave. Our district’s 3-year average is 10.67%. A quick point of comparison: Palo Alto School District (a more similar district to ours than those mentioned in the editorial) has a 3-year average of 20%. The state average for turnover is 12%. Our numbers are below-average, but we still – always! – want to improve.
Please also keep in mind; we have built-in turnover with DLI visas every two – three years. While this is a small impact, it is a factor. We believe strongly in the DLI program and the benefits it provides to our children, especially the incredible opportunity of our native speakers sharing the culture of the languages.
As always, I encourage you to call, email, or come see me anytime with questions or concerns, and I’d love to hear your ideas for topics I can cover in these weekly dispatches. I’d also encourage you to sign up for our new information initiative — PCSD Community Link. You can sign up here: http://tiny.cc/pcschools (Spanish: http://tiny.cc/pcespanol) or by texting your first & last name to 435-602-4444.
Ms Leaf’s editorial cited turnover rates above 50% over the last three years, which averages out to almost 17% turnover per year. Dr Conley’s numbers average out to about 10% per year. Having visited with both Ms. Leaf and Molly Miller, the school district’s communication expert, the source of the data is the same (the Assistant Superintendent). However, Ms. Leaf included licensed teachers, assistants, and aides in her turnover numbers. Dr Conley included only the traditional definition of “teacher” according to Ms Miller. That appears to be the difference.
So, it comes down to one of those 1990 Bill Clinton issues. What is the definition of the word teacher. Is a teacher anyone who has a part in instructing your children or is a teacher a licensed teacher (or similar). That is the further complicated by comparisons against other districts that may define teacher differently.
So we ask our community to be informed and nuanced. First, do you care about teacher turnover? If not, you can stop reading five paragraphs ago. If you do, do you care about turnover related to anyone who has a part in instructing our children or do you only care about licensed teachers?
If you care about all people that teach our children, then is 50% + turnover in three years OK?
If you care about only licensed teachers, is 30% turnover in 3 years OK?
Either way how to you factor in comparisons with other districts?
As with anything involving children, it’s complicated.
The NCES Schools and Staffing Survey uses the following definition:
“any individual who reported either being employed full time or part time at a public school
(including public charter schools) with a main assignment teaching in any Grade(s) K-12, including itinerant teachers and long-term substitutes. Excluded from this definition of a teacher were individuals who identified their main assignment as prekindergarten teacher, short-term substitute, student teacher, teacher aide, or a nonteaching specialist of any kind.”
I don’t know if that is the standard way to report this sort of number for any individual school district, though. And I don’t know that the “licensed” part is captured by the SASS numbers either.
IMO it sounds like everyone involved on both sides is spinning this. An honest assessment would require quite a bit more rigor in defining terms and selecting appropriate comparisons.
Also, surely PCSD has turnover records going back much further. Perhaps we’re doing great and retention is better than it used to be. Or maybe it’s the opposite!
But nobody knows, since nobody has bothered to just give us the long term numbers.
PCSD can provide more data, but not without going back into paper file records and performing manual counts. Digital records go back only a few years, depending upon the data requested.
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