Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Open Market Transfer System Ensures High Teacher Turnover In Deep Poverty Schools.

In the aftermath of the infamous 2005 contract the DOE, with the approval of the UFT leadership, developed and implemented the Open Market Transfer System (OMTS) that allowed teachers to move from one school to another without the approval of the Principal.  On the surface this appeared to be a good idea, except it came with some very serious consequences that resulted in the elimination of the seniority transfer system and the creation of the ATR crisis,   Furthermore, few highly experienced teachers are being offered positions in the OMTS, due to budgetary considerations.  However, what was not anticipated has turned out to be the most serious issue of all, and that is the high teacher turnover in struggling schools with deep poverty.

A study done in 2013 by the Research Alliance For New York City Schools found that an astonishing 66% of teachers hired between 2002 and 2009 left their middle school within five years, For high schools it was 65% and 59% for elementary schools.  The article stated that schools with high poverty students were more likely to see their recently hired teachers move to other schools.

Interestingly, the researchers, Marinell and Coca, found that the main factors in teachers leaving these schools had more to do with three issues:

  • Administrative trust and support.
  • Social and Collaborative staff.
  • Firm and fair student discipline.
By far, the most likely reason for teachers to leave their school was lack of respect for or by the school administration who failed to provide support and relevant guidance to help the teacher in the classroom.  Moreover, teachers who left complained of the school administration's lack of trustworthiness and unfair evaluation practices. Finally, if the Principal was not considered a "strong instructional leader" and was not supportive of the staff, their schools suffered from high teacher turnover.

Another problem with schools that suffered from high teacher turnover was the lack of a collaborative staff.  Many of these struggling schools hire new teachers on a continuous basis and that destabilizes the school.  These teachers lack qualified mentors and since each of these teachers are under great stress to understand the curriculum and develop classroom management skills, there is no time to share "best practices" with other teachers.  Furthermore, the constant teacher turnover does not allow for social interaction as many of these teachers spend most of their time taking required courses, making lesson plans, and doing the obscene amount of paperwork required by the DOE.  Therefore, Collegial relationships that make the terrible working conditions somewhat tolerable is lacking in those schools with high teacher turnover.

Quite a number of teachers did leave due to student discipline issues.  Unfortunately, too many students lack respect for teachers, have chronic absenteeism, and have extremely poor work habits.  In  many of these schools the school administration would have an uneven and even unfair student discipline policy that made the classroom a even more hostile environment.

In summary many teachers stayed or left based upon a combination of these factors;
  • Social working conditions.
  • The quality of school leadership.
  • The caliber of collegial relationships.
  • School culture.
The OMTS is really the "wild west" where teachers dissatisfied with their school can go on the system and get another position, regardless if the teacher was rated unsatisfactory or had their probation extended which means that struggling schools in deep poverty neighborhoods have little or no chance to retain their teaching staff since many of these schools are run by "Leadership Academy Principals" with little classroom experience and are poor instructional leaders.  Moreover, since many experienced teachers will not willingly take a position in these schools, the students are exposed to a continuing line of inexperienced teachers that will negatively affect their academic outcomes.  Until the DOE changes the ideology that allows weak and vindictive leadership to run these struggling schools, look for the recently hired teachers to leave those schools, thanks to the OMTS, a real Trojan horse when it comes to deep poverty schools.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am currently working at a 3 year old middle school in a high poverty area and this column described it to a "T". Our principal is a leadership academy grad who was never an AP somewhere else before she started this school. Most of the teaching staff are brand new. There are a handful of experienced teachers but we are definitely the clear minority. Everything you described applies, it really hurts the stability of the school with so much turnover.