Monday, December 9, 2013

CMS: Much teacher turnover is out of our hands

I figured Superintendent Heath Morrison and his crew would be teed up and ready to respond to the state's teacher turnover report released last week.

It was surely no surprise to district leaders that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' 2012-13 turnover rate of 15.99 percent was a 10-year high,  topping the state average.  And since I had taken a personal day when the report was made public at a state Board of Education meeting,  I figured Morrison's crew would be more than ready to talk about CMS challenges and solutions when I called Thursday.

After all,  Morrison has consistently identified teacher morale and retention as a key issue since he was hired in 2012.  I figured he or his top staff would be quick to note that he brought in a national consultants to talk to principals about ways to keep their best teachers,  that he convened advisory groups to talk about improving teacher compensation and school working climate,  that Mecklenburg County commissioners in 2012 spent $18.5 million to bump up the state's 1.2 percent raise to 3 percent for CMS teachers and other employees.

Instead, you may have noticed we ran a front-page story on Friday with no comment from CMS administrators.  The public information office tried to get Human Resources Chief Terri Cockerham to talk to me on Thursday,  but I heard nothing that day.

It wasn't until late Friday afternoon that the PIO emailed this response from Cockerham:

"The retention rate of quality teachers is an issue we will always focus on in CMS.  The turnover rate released by the State for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is 15.99% for the 2012-13 school year.

A large percentage (44% of the 15.99%) of teachers are listed as leaving as a result of turnover beyond control (retirees, deaths, health, family responsibilities and family relocation) and reasons initiated by LEA (low performance). Another percentage of this total number includes promotions to central office.  

Recent legislation and a lack of pay raises over numerous years has and will continue to have an impact on teacher retention as well.  Teachers have received one raise within the past five school years.  The superintendent is working extremely hard to help correct this issue both on the state level and local level.  We are concerned with any teacher that leaves and want to be sure that we do all we can to maintain quality teachers within the district. The newly released Strategic Plan 2018: For a Better Tomorrow, helps us lay out a plan to create an environment that rewards and encourages teachers to stay in CMS."

Recruiting,  retaining and rewarding  "a premier workforce"  is one of that plan's goals.  In October the school board approved a list of targets for 2018 that includes increasing the retention rate for employees rated "accomplished"  or  "distinguished."  However,  neither the baseline nor the target has been set yet.


Anonymous said...

Is there data to show how many teachers left CMS and other NC schools to teach in another state with higher salaries? That's what we really need to see to understand if the NC pay scale is the primary root cause for the high turnover. If teachers in CMS and other NC districts are going to other NC schools, then pay isn't the real issue.

Shamash said...

Anon 6:43,

You need to look at page 36 of the report for a summary, and the rest of the report for details.

455 teachers allegedly resigned to teach in another state.

2851 resigned to teach elsewhere in NC.

145 resigned to a charter school.

1445 moved to a non-teaching position in education.

1966 retired with full benefits.

So, the mass exodus out-of-state doesn't seem to be an issue in this turnover report.

But, then, it's hard to tell whether other "personal" reasons such as "family relocation" are due to pay or not.

That's the problem with "exit interviews".

Most people know better than to tell the whole truth if they want another job.

Also this is historical data, not the current year, so recent events should not have played a role in the turnover.

Just from a quick look at the turnover rates (no extensive data analysis which wouldn't be possible with what we're given in the report anyway...).

The relative ranking for turnover rates for each of the eight regions remains about the same over the last five years, even though turnover for all regions has increased.

I would suspect that the recent increases across the ENTIRE state are probably due to problems affecting the ENTIRE state, while the relative differences between regions reflect problems within those regions.

The western and northwestern regions have much lower turnover rates (consistently) than the others, so maybe they're doing something right (or at least better) to retain teachers.

Unknown said...

So, I guess everyone will just play patty cake around the issue. We all know that the underlying issue for high turnover in CMS is compensation. Its been well documented during CMS' recent past and is no secret. This is the same for any other professional job in our country.

When folk work and feel fairly compensated based on skill and effort, most are staying put and THEN you can consider those reasons cited in the article, IF retention is still an issue.

We watch the DOW Jones and SP500 shoot up along with other economic bench mark ratings, yet most are not seeing better pay. So if your current employer is not sharing the wealth and there are other firms/organizations our there who are, you best believe employees will seek to leave.

Anonymous said...

Its not the best time in the world to be changing professions especially with the stagnant poor economy that Obama is destroying on a daily basis in order to transfer to socialism and redistribute wealth after 10 trillion over and above in 4.5 yrs counting his failed lie called OC that is ruining 25% of the economy to help a bunch of worthless loser welfare food stamp bums or illegals.

Obama needs to run for president of Cuba or Venezuela and get out of America tampering and manipulating.
This idiot couldnt run a 7 year lemonaid stand business.

Romney is the real deal capitalist business developer who could have begun to clean up Obama's incompetent mess by now although the damage is massive and with 10 trillion overrun that took only 4 yrs while the first 10 trillion took 232 yrs to attain.

And NOT a penny for teachers salaries who claims to be a big education president proves another lie.

Nice to see professional athletes ripping off the masses though and making 50 million annually to play a kids gamers 3-4 months as pampered adults who refuse to even serve their country with their pretty boy gay dredlocks tattoes and piercings strutting up and down the fields on national tv that goes up 2 times a year now to pay their salaries with everything else.

Only in Amerika are priorities all out of whack ...

Anonymous said...

Almost 3000 CMS teachers left CMS to teach in another NC public school. That SCREAMS that working for CMS sucks, b/c CMS has the highest local "supplement" to compensation in NC. So many of our teachers are taking pay cuts to get out of CMS!

Anonymous said...

Teachers are not leaving just for money. They are exhausted from micromanagement, unreasonable testing, endless paperwork and meetings, continued lack of books and resources, a foolish evaluation system, and disrespect. They are run ragged with bureaucratic tasks and an ever-increasing needy population which is reflective of a society with increasing social and familial problems. Instead of being seen as noble servants who work each day to help children, they have been cast by politicians and the general public as ineffective, lazy, greedy and stupid. And you really wonder WHY they are leaving? If this economy ever improves, there will be a classroom crisis with subs filling the positions!

Anonymous said...

Todays pc age teachers are nothing but whipped and beaten slaves in chains to the state govt system making a few dollars to stretch out to live on in a world where food, gas, clothing, insurance, medical care, cars, living expenses, real estate, etc etc has gone thru the roof.
The louder teacher scream the less they listen and ignore. It all starts at the top in Washington DC.
Why does the president send his to private elite schools? Is that not setting a bad example or just another free pass he gets out of the 1000s of other free passes?
Proof is in the actions not the rhetoric. So far no action only rhetoric.
His crony capitalism is fully intact as the Fed is pumping 85 billion a month into the market to keep it afloat and not correct.
Teachers are treated as lesser peasants and minion indentured servants of the regime govt with bridles on their mouths.

Anonymous said...

10:26--Pay closer attention before slamming CMS. The "almost 3000 teachers who left to teach in another NC public school" were not just CMS teachers. This number includes all public school systems in the state. I know Shamash put these numbers out there from p. 36 of the report summary, but, Shamash, you did understand these were numbers for the entire state, right? Really people, if CMS lost the number of teachers listed in each category that would come out to about somewhere near 7000 teachers leaving. Since CMS only employs 9221 full time teachers (according to their website) there would hardly be anyone left if 7000 resigned!

Anonymous said...

This turnover is not about CMS; it's about the state's treatment of teachers.

1. In North Carolina, unless the district supplements salaries, a teacher must work for 13 years to make $40,000.

Now, imagine having a job where you can barely be active with your own children, likely need to take on a second job to make ends meet, have few opportunities for growth/professional development and even less time to reflect on what you've learned, and the esteem of your profession is mixed with pity and patronization. Everyone is an expert on how to teach children except for the person doing the teaching. All the while, you are being told to get all of these extra credentials, but, mid-course, the Legislature decides not to give you a salary bump for their completion. Then, follow that with people constantly asking you for feedback, but nothing happening because there is a bottleneck between the legislature, administration, and the people on the ground. And, this is all before you step in the classroom for the day.

Would you stay in that job?

Wiley Coyote said...

This is nothing new. It's like "global warming" town criers.

....Ingersoll (1999, 2001, 2002a) proposed the schoolteacher hiring and quitting cycle is a revolving door. Ingersoll (2001) analyzed national data and concluded the teacher shortages in public schools is not because of teacher retirement but a revolving door in which almost half the new teachers are leaving schools within five years. Reed, Rueben, and Barbour (2006) suggested shortages of well-prepared teachers in public schools in California exist because 22% of new teachers leave the organization within five years. Once more, 28% of the teachers who left the classroom self-report they would return if school conditions improved (Futernick, 2007). The turnover is the cause of teacher shortages rather than the lack of recruitment of new teachers. Therefore, retaining teachers is the key to keeping highly qualified teachers in the classroom.

Retaining teachers is an historical challenge with teacher shortages, retention, and mobility in the U.S. public schools described in the literature for centuries. Elsbree (1939) noticed the short tenure of early schoolmasters of the American colonies, including the migration of the schoolmasters. From 1644 until 1757, Massachusetts colonial teachers remained in an area for approximately 1 year and 10 months (p. 81). In 1824, Carter described the tentative nature of Massachusetts teachers’ employment as “constantly changing their employment” (Knight, 1951, p. 404). Hirsch (1967) studied the supply and demand of classroom teachers in California and concluded economic reasons influenced the number of teachers.

Shamash said...

Anon 11:23.

YES, I DID understand that those were numbers for the ENTIRE state and was going to correct 10:26 as well.

I even commented about how the diferent REGIONS of the entire state differed in their turnover rates fairly consistently.

As for Unknown's comment about what we "all know" as the underlying issue (namely pay)...

I just wish the teachers who are leaving would make that CRYSTAL CLEAR in their exit interviews.

Otherwise, all those official reports will still have all those other excuses to cite.

Also, pay doesn't explain why the WESTERN and NORTHWESTERN REGIONS of the state have consistently lower turnover.

Do they get paid more?

Or is something else at work.

Maybe it's their lack of other opportunities, talent, skills, or maybe they're just happier in their jobs for some odd reason.

Maybe life as a rural teacher is really a sweet deal.

Simon Says said...

Honestly I don't think it's as much about pay as it is the teachers constantly have administration and educrats breathing down their necks all day long and telling them how to do their jobs. Also, pushing the BYOT plan and other "new" programs every year is a joke.

Ever notice that since all of our little ones got ahold of computers and personal tech devices that our education scores have gone down as a country? Teachers aren't able to teach anymore, and students aren't learning with all the "new" program du jours.

Anonymous said...


I don't think anyone was criticizing your analysis. You were spot on. Have you ever told the complete truth in an exit interview? I can't imagine those interviews are anonymous, even if they seem to be, and people don't want to burn bridges.

Anonymous said...

Great way for the BOE and Heath to respond. Geez we dont know why would anyone leave us? We rock with our LIFT and BYOT Bill Gates said everyone loves us?
Recipe for a failed business= treat your staff poorly, pay below standard salary, close schools and dump more kids in each classroom, give no raises and blame everyone else. This stat is not new and has been going on for decades. Frankly , the quality that we have in teachers today is better than I thought with what they are offered. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

11:58 Agree with you Simon Says...let the teachers teach. They have gotten too far away from the real job of teaching, having to focus on reports, testing, new programs and meetings.

Anonymous said...

As far as the Northwest and West, there are a lot of reasons for the lower turnover. Fewer job opportunities, greater esteem for teachers, fewer outside groups with agendas that run counter to the school system's goals=less noise, slower pace of life, and, anecdotally, teachers are allowed to have more fun (customize) in their classes.

I haven't seen the data for this, so it is conjecture, but I hear from teachers that they are being asked to do more and more social work without adequate training. I think this data coincides with the year or the year after CMS cut/reduced its contracts with behavioral health providers. It's not that rural students have fewer problems, but perhaps the frequency doesn't overload the staff capacity to deal with them.

10:26AM: We had a change in superintendent, it is normal to see higher turnover when there is a change in leadership. It happens across the board.

Eric Banks said...

It would be interesting to know how many of the 1966 "retirements" actually just got fed up.

Shamash said...

Anon 11:59.

(I wasn't taking that as criticism of any analysis or whatever, just thought it was already in what I wrote.)

And yep, when I'm "on record", I ALWAYS tell my former employer that the job I hated was the best job I ever had.

Then I tell the truth anonymously.


Most HR people KNOW that exit interviews are mostly CYA anyway, and typically just a legal formality to avoid later complaints and lawsuits.

So I can understand why many of these "reasons" are probably bogus and the truth is often hidden from the official surveys.

If they really WANT to know, they need to get anonymous feedback.

Because people aren't THAT stupid.

Shamash said...

Yeah, well we always hear that old debbil "poverty" thrown out as an excuse for so many problems in schools, but I've never believed that.

Rural isn't exactly nirvana, either, though, because what's true in the West/Northwest doesn't seem to hold true for other rural areas.

Anyway, I just think it's worthwhile to look at where things are working "better" for clues to problems as well as looking at the problems we all know about.

Anonymous said...

Increased Educrats/government control = decreased output/capacity/stability/happiness/results

Unknown said...

All of these comments have merit but when you are paid a desired wage you tend to overlook some of the secondary issues discussed. Lets be frank....we all want a job that is rewarding and makes us feel good but most of us are working for the monetary gain, whether that is in actual cash or benefits/perks.

When pay isn't good those little knicks, aches, and pains all of a sudden hurt a little more.

Anonymous said...

When the BK worker receives the $15 and hour (as already in some cities), then why would any qualified educator with ANY common sense work in Charlotte for CMeS?

Very soon demand and supply will catch up to this smoke and mirror school system. The lies, waste and ineptness will no longer be able to be covered up even with LaTarza not writing the press releases.

Come On Ann! Follow the money

Anonymous said...

Teachers are almost doing 2x the work (# of students) they were doing 6 years ago for tens of thousands less in salary and benefits. Not happy is kind.


Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

Anon 3:53pm.

Where in the US do BK workers make $15/hr?

And is is that their minimum wage or their pay for an assistant manager?

Now, if you're talking about OUTSIDE the US, then also tell us about the purchasing power of their pay?

How much would their extra pay get them in Whoppers?

Or Big Macs:

BolynMcClung said...

The gist of this article is that teachers are changing careers.

Well at least we can say the General Assembly, NCDPI and CMS are on top of this as they have pointed-out that today’s students will change careers numerous times and jobs many times.

Welcome to preparing to be a teacher in North Carolina. New teachers will soon be new insurance salesmen and women.

One of the administrations’ most clever statements is that they are preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist today. I suppose they could also say they are preparing students for jobs that won’t exist…such as teaching.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

While the pay is most definitely an issue it is not the major problem amongst good teachers. Many of us who truly love education are seeking other opportunities due to the failures and philosophies of school and central office administration.

As a teacher at South Meck High School we have seen an atmosphere of serious academics completely deteriorate due to a complete lack of discipline. Students are allowed to arrive to class when ever they please, talk to teachers and other students inappropriately and commit violent acts without fear of consequences. Like many CMS administrations ours is not committed to creating an environment conducive to the students and families that want to succeed.

Beyond discipline, teachers are appalled by the unethical practices such as pressuring teachers into passing students who do not deserve to pass. WSOC recently did an investigation on the practice at South Meck that involved bullying teachers to pass students who turned on "0" work and have not shown up to class.

These are the real reasons that good teachers leave and are the issues that parents should be most alarmed by.

Anonymous said...

Why work for CMS when one can work for Pearson and Power School and roll out (and over) school systems with software that even makes NC Tracks look semi competent. I feel much more competent in telling parents that I can't record grades today because Power School was powerless nor use it at home because the software was considered corrupted by my system. Better yet, while most of the middle management layer in American business has evaporated, Heath seems to find more spaces for unjustifiable administrators with bogus titles who evaluate, circulate, and regurgitate the company drool ad nauseum.
It's past time……..leave while you can.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps elementary teachers are leaving because they are working 45 minutes longer per day with no additional pay. Maybe it is the 4:15 bell at middle and elementary schools? The increase in turnover began the same spring (2011) they announced these schedule changes...I know teachers who chose to retire sooner rather than deal with the longer day and late bell.

Anonymous said...

Bullies at the administrative level cause turnover. I know of an outstanding teacher who left Elon Park after having to deal with a principal who favored ex football players and certain others plus a K-2 literacy facilitator who was extremely abrasive. Both were also huge on making assumptions and coming up with lies all the time!! This teacher was an amazing person who went above and beyond the expectations, enriching the experience for everyone--but even the hardest working, warmest hearted person in the building (this teacher) called it quits after putting up with these two and a slew of other incompetent coworkers.

Anonymous said...

9:39 Same thing going on at nearby elem schools. Hang tough!

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's any one factor that contributes entirely. Having taught for a couple of years in California, I found that the pay was one thing, but working conditions were another. It was ultimately the working conditions that caused me to leave, and I'm not sure I'll go back.

I was placed in the middle of the year and was given the students that "the other teachers didn't want." They had many subs, I was told most of which stopped showing up after a few days. A couple of weeks passed and a review was already due, I was given poor marks because one kid snickered during class, another interrupted another student and the pace of the class was too slow. In my prior class at another school I had received nearly perfect scores. It takes time to undo months of bad habits, and this wasn't taken into consideration when my review came. Layoffs were already eminent, so after receiving a poor review I left once the semester ended to ensure I could keep another job. Oh, and I spent nearly $800 out of pocket on supplies just to set up my classroom. Good times.