New teacher retention at a record high: LAUSD is keeping 98 percent of its teachers
Mike Szymanski | March 21, 2017
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LA Unified is retaining a record-high 98 percent of its new teachers, according to a report presented Tuesday. But as administrative positions are cut, some are concerned that the district’s support staff for those new teachers will be spread too thin.
“You are doing an amazing job with what you have,” school board member Richard Vladovic said to the LA Unified administrators assigned to helping new teachers. “But with the small staff you have, there’s no way you’re going to be able to help those new teachers.”
Marjorie Josaphat, the co-lead chief of the Human Resources Division for the school district, said, “We have a more streamlined effort than ever before in keeping new teachers and it has increased each year.”
In the 2013-2014 school year, 91 percent of new teachers remained in the school district from one year to the next, and this 2016-2017 school year, that number hit 98 percent, Josaphat said. She credited the higher retention to a series of mentoring, certification and professional development programs in the district.
But as the district sent out potential pink slips to 1,600 administrative staff, the amount of support for those new teachers could be diminished, said Vladovic, who is chairman of the Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Equity Committee. Meanwhile, education experts are concerned about a statewide teacher shortage and are coming up with unique ways to keep teachers in California.
“A highly trained teacher committed to young people will make a difference with the proper support,” Vladovic said. “They need support, they need training and in some cases, they need to extinguish bad habits.”
New teachers are defined as new hires without a permanent contract because they are temporary, probationary, provisional, or an intern. This year, LA Unified has 2,700 new teachers, and most (580) are in the Central (downtown and East Los Angeles) district. About 900 of those teachers have asked for special help, and there’s a staff of five from the district’s Teacher Quality Program helping those teachers. LA Unified has 25,276 K-12 teachers.
Vladovic said he worried that future federal government cuts, declining enrollment, and cutting more administrators will spread those specialists too thin.
“No other profession I know lets you go right into the fray of things — I don’t want to say battle — so I worry about these new teachers,” Vladovic said.
Shelley Williams, the lead specialist who runs the Teacher Quality Program, said, “It is a large load, but it’s manageable. We have wonderful partnerships” with other departments and local universities.
New hires are given a resource guide and offered support programs in such things as lesson planning, stress management, and class climate. They have monthly new teacher meetings in every local district, as well as bi-monthly special education new teacher meetings and a summer institute specifically geared to new teachers.
“They can check in with other teachers and have conversations on things like how to work on diffusing disruptive behavior, working with the principal, and professional development,” Williams said.
Vladovic said teachers shouldn’t be evaluated as successful just on their retention rate for staying at LA Unified. Williams explained that there are a series of surveys and check-ins to see if the teachers are performing well with their students and are feeling satisfied emotionally, and have a desire to continue teaching.
The school district has a Teacher Training Academy, Teacher Support Unit, district intern program, Teacher Career Academies, and many other support programs for prospective teachers.
Derek Ramage, the administrator for the Career Ladder program, talked about how veterans are interning as assistants at some of the most challenging schools, and how some teachers are working toward being National Board Certified in private programs that help at schools such as City Year AmeriCorps.
Ramage also discussed a program to help train 261 special education teachers with 46 others who have dual-language training. The $2 million program allows teachers to train in the district, and if they stay as teachers for at least two years, the training is free.
“Our special ed teachers have an 85 percent retention rate after 10 years,” Ramage said. “We believe there is room to continue to grow as we look toward our teacher shortage.”
Board member Scott Schmerelson said, “I agree with hiring from within because those people know what they are getting into, because if they are assistants first, it’s not a surprise to them.”
Schmerelson said he visited some classes at some schools in his district “and I couldn’t tell who was the teacher and who was the special ed assistant. They are doing a great job and are excellent teachers and I hope they will continue to do that.”
One new teacher who went through the training program at the district, Jasmin Allen-Matora, talked about how she almost gave up her education because she couldn’t afford it while raising two small children. She was helped by LA Unified and is earning her credential while teaching kindergarten and first grade at 24th Street Elementary School. She won a Michael McKibbin Outstanding Educator award and will get her dual-language education degree in 2018.
Teacher Lindsay Allen was helped by the Beginning Teacher Growth and Development Induction Program, which helps with mentors. Now she is teaching at Fleming Middle School but needed help to transition from being trained as an elementary school teacher.
“My mentor told me after observing my classes that I had a teacher-led classroom rather than a student-led classroom, and I had no idea what she was talking about,” Allen said. “Now I have created collaborative learning groups and chat stations and learned how to release control of my classroom. I have become a model to my school and because of this program I am a quality teacher.”
Vladovic said that he makes spot-check visits to schools in his district, sometimes with Superintendent Michelle King, and told a story about a recent visit where he found a new teacher who needed help.
“This was a brand new teacher who was teaching only four days and she was giving a great lesson, but no one was listening,” Vladovic said. “She was talking to herself, and I sat in the back and a kid told me, ‘She needs help.’ She lost her kids.”
Vladovic said the new teacher support team came in to offer help and advice to the new teacher so she wouldn’t be frustrated. That, he said, showed how the system worked.