By Curt Yeomans | Gwinnett Daily Post
The percentage of Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers who were hired in 2018 and had left by the summer of 2021 was well above the national average, a consultant told the county’s school board on Thursday.
Alma Advisory Group CEO Monica Rosen said the national average for new teachers who leave their district within their first three years is about 30%, but 42.29% of teachers hired by GCPS in 2018 had left the district by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Many of those teachers had already left the district before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“These numbers are significantly higher than national averages,” Rosen said. “We looked at teacher exit surveys to try and understand this a little bit better and teachers who leave are more likely to indicate a need for mentorship, high quality induction and actionable feedback.
“So, we think these are all important things to examine and, hopefully, look to strengthen.”
The data has GCPS officials looking at what they can do to improve teacher retention, particularly among teachers at Title I schools.
The data presented on Thursday showed 20.87% of teachers hired by the district in 2018 left the district after only one year. That in itself is well above the national average of 9% of newly hired teachers who leave their district after their first year, Rosen said.
“When we looked at these results by race, your teachers of color were much more likely to cite lack of support from administration, lack of classroom autonomy and opportunity for leadership when compared to their white peers,” Rosen said.
One recommendation from the consultant is to create consistency in core teacher leadership pathways and boost compensation across schools rather than letting them rely on budgets at individual schools.
On a four-year average, from 2019 to 2022, the district had an overall 13.25% turnover rate, which is above the state rate of 8.9%.
Turnover at Title I schools, which serve poorer communities and have higher numbers of students who receive free and reduced lunches, is much higher, however. Rosen’s presentation shows there was a 75% turnover rate at Gwinnett’s Title I schools over a four-year period.
“Schools with higher percentages of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch have higher percentages of teachers who are new to teaching and higher percentages of teacher turnover,” Rosen said.
“The students who deserve your best and brightest, and most stable staffing are not getting the same access to them as your lower poverty schools are having.”
Rosen said, however, the percentage of teachers leaving a Title I schools can be a bit deceptive because they do not solely reflect people leaving the district.
“The turnover numbers for the schools here are movement within schools as well as leaving the district,” she said. “This tells us that your recruit challenges are by and large exacerbated by a retention challenge.
“Addressing retention in your schools will significantly reduce pressure on filling vacancies year over year.”
Rosen said some of her firm’s recommendations for GCPS include: recruiting teachers nationally; providing more support from the district’s Human Resources Department to principals who make hiring decisions; tackling policies to allow the district to hire people to fill vacancies at the earliest time possible; engaging in workforce planning with principals; allowing principals to make job offers based of forecasted vacancies rather than waiting to confirm vacancies; and building teacher leader pathways to increase internal pipelines.
She also recommended induction supports at schools for new teachers.
“This requires structure and support, with principals having the opportunity to reflect together and learn from each other practices that are working well in supporting new teachers, and resources for new teachers provided consistently to new teachers year round,” Rosen said.
GCPS Chief Human Resources Officer Cathy Hardin said the district will take a multi-year approach to tackling recruitment and retention. The approach outlined on Thursday uses the current school year as the first year on that plan with work to design teacher leader pathways and recruitment and hiring strategies beginning.
“Our students deserve the very best that we have to offer,” Hardin said. “The very best includes rigorous instruction, opportunities and access to courses and resources that lead to innovative thinking, time to connect and engage productively with their peers and, most importantly, top notch teachers that can build their capacity to be strong independent learners.
“Teachers have a tremendous impact on student learning and achievement. As such, we must invest in them by recruiting the best and brightest to serve in our classrooms and being committed to supporting and learning, and retaining this top talent.”
The district’s efforts are expected to continue through the 2024-2025 school year.
During the 2023-2024 school year, GCPS will run a pilot on a new evaluation and feedback system at the Instructional Support Center. Another pilot that focuses on providing opportunities for broadening teacher compensation will also be enacted in that year.
Other steps GCPS will take during the 2023-2024 school year include: work on refining hiring cycles and recruitment strategies; launch years one and two of teacher leader pathways; begin rolling out new teacher induction and retention approaches; and find sustainable funding and determine staffing needs for those efforts.
During the 2024-2025 school year, years three and four of the teacher leader pathways will roll out; compensation strategies will be fully implemented; competency-based hiring at scale will be implemented; and principal and teacher evaluations will be aligned to GCPS competencies.
The district will also continue refining its recruitment strategies and hiring cycle, and the impact of the new strategies will be assessed.
“Indicators of success would be increased candidate pools, improved response and turnaround time for our HR operations and, of course, earlier hiring in the school year,” Hardin said.