DC schools’ teacher retention rate falls for second year in a row

Thirty percent of D.C. teachers left their schools last year, according to recently-released city data, prompting education leaders to double down on investments in staff well-being.

The latest data from the city superintendent’s office reveals that 70 percent of teachers this year remained at the same school they taught in during the 2021-22 school year. Nine percent moved to a new school with the same job title, 3% changed roles and 17% left the city entirely.

The percent of teachers who left their schools last year is up from 26% and 19% in the two years prior, respectively, which includes both public and public charter schools, according to city data.

Elizabeth Ross, the city’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the data “paint a very compelling picture that our workforce remains strong.”

Teachers may leave their schools for many different reasons, Ross said, declining to speak broadly or speculate what those reasons may be.

“Our educators are the single most important in-school factor influencing student learning in life,” Ross said. “And so we really do prioritize making sure that we collect these data, and then publish them timely.”

The figures are the latest to depict the hiring challenges school systems across the D.C. region are grappling with in the aftermath of the pandemic. The city, Ross said, publishes the data in advance of hiring and recruitment season so schools can use them to guide hiring decisions. It’s expected to share school-level data later this spring.

As part of the city’s efforts to retain teachers, D.C. is using federal funds to address curriculum materials as well as student and staff mental wellness.

“We recognize that this pandemic has taken an incredible toll on the mental health of our students, our educators and our leaders,” said Tia Marie Brumsted, the city’s assistant superintendent of health and wellness.

In one case, Ross said, the city is offering virtual coaching for school leaders. It’s also investing in “high-quality instructional materials,” in addition to extra support for schools offering summer programs to “accelerate learning for their students.”

D.C. is also investing in the science of reading, an approach to reading instruction that emphasizes phonics, and will soon be announcing plans for math “boot camps that will provide educators in D.C. with support around specific content areas,” Ross said.

Some of the retention data depicts differences in vacancy rates depending on subject matter, Ross added.

The city went from a 9% vacancy rate in bilingual educators in the 2021-22 school year to having no vacancies in 2022-23.

“Just looking across the board, we decreased vacancy rates in every single subject area with the exception of social studies, which held steady with a significant increase in the number of individuals that were classified as that position,” Ross said.

The full data set is available online.

Some D.C. council members this week also introduced legislation to expand teachers’ benefits by offering things like mental health days, with the goal of improving retention.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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