Waco ISD working to increase teacher retention, sees improvement

Posted at 11:52 AM, Dec 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-14 21:22:03-05

Teachers have one of the biggest responsibilities--to educate the future generations of leaders.

But, it's easier said than done for many who decide to pursue this profession. Deciding to leave the classroom early in a teacher's career could negatively impacts students' academic performance.

It's an issue that school districts across the country are wrestling with. How can they keep teachers for the long run and not just a few years?

Countless reports and studies cite the immense workload and not enough support from administration among many reasons for teachers turning in the keys to their classroom.

It’s a concern at Waco ISD that officials have been working to fix for the last several years.

"We want consistency for our students. we think it's healthy to have teachers come back year after year,” said Elaine Botello, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at Waco ISD.

From the 2010-2011 school year to the next, Waco ISD saw about a six percent jump in its teacher turnover rate. The district attributes those numbers to new, rigorous teacher evaluation measures.

"Accountability--we take it seriously. So, we also had an increase in teachers who left because of performance reasons,” said Botello.

Tony Talbert, professor of education at Baylor University, says teachers don't mind being held accountable as long as they have autonomy in their classroom.

"When districts do that, when they balance autonomy and accountability, regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of the population diversity of those schools, we see those schools doing very, very well,” said Talbert.

Waco ISD has an added challenge. More than 70 percent of its students are considered economically disadvantaged.

For the 2014-2015 school year, the teacher turnover for districts in the state similar to Waco was almost 22 percent--slightly below Waco's recently released rate of 23.6 percent. (The 23.6 percent teacher turnover rate reflects the number of teachers that left at the end of the 2014-2015 school year and did not return for the 2015-2016 school year.)

Professor Talbert says higher education institutions must also do their part in helping solve this part of the problem. "A professional development school model where our students are working for four years with mentor teachers in low income school districts within our region,” said Talbert.

Professor Talbert also says support for teachers early in their career is crucial to help keep them in the classroom. Officials at Waco ISD are well aware of the impact that has had in helping lower the teacher turnover rate over the past two school years.

"We give them a new teacher mentor on the campus. We also have district-level mentor coaches. We also have content specialists and instructional specialists,” added Botello.

To motivate teachers to keep returning, Waco ISD has implemented new measures like offering performance based incentives, adding academic and behavioral aides to classrooms administering an anonymous survey to give teachers a voice and raised teacher salaries --among many others.

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