Why so many DCPS teachers are headed for the classroom exit

Increasing numbers of D.C. public school teachers are heading for the classroom door.

At a hearing held by the D.C. Council during the week, some educators sounded off on what’s lost when their peers exit the classroom as turnover that eased during COVID-19 rebounded to pre-pandemic rates.

With the turnover increase “that institutional knowledge as well as the community knowledge, as well as just pedagogical knowledge, gets lost with it,” Dylan Craig, a DCPS teacher, Washington Teachers Union rep and executive board member, told WTOP.

“And even there can be great new teachers coming in. But there’s something unique about each school, each community and programs/initiatives that are part of that school … with constant turnover, it’s not quite starting fresh, but almost starting fresh each year,” Craig said.

Being overworked is among the reasons teachers leave the classroom, according to Craig, who also said the IMPACT teacher evaluation system came up often during Tuesday’s testimony.

“It feels like it’s more punitive than making them grow because of how much is attached … how often limited certain forms of observations and feedback can be, but still carry great weight,” he said. “So that’s one way I think teachers are feeling kind of underappreciated and undervalued.”

The Washington Post was first to report that more than a quarter of teachers have left the classroom in the past two school years. The paper also reported that some charter school leaders testified at a different hearing Wednesday, saying that the number of teachers leaving the classroom doesn’t always paint an accurate picture.

Craig said teachers may leave classrooms but remain at the same schools, a move that may not mean quitting but could still signal an issue.

“The fact that they’re staying with DCPS kind of reiterates the fact that they’re still dedicated, they still want to be a part of the community … They still want to be, even if they’re working in the same school maybe, with the students. But they are finding, for whatever reason, working directly in the classroom a lot of times is untenable for long term,” Craig said.

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