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Is there an exodus of teachers out of DeKalb?

My AJC colleague Marlon Walker reports more than 900 teachers resigned during DeKalb school Superintendent Steve Green’s first year on the job, which may be the largest exodus the district has ever seen.

However, there seems to be confusion about how many teachers resigned in past years.

Walker reports:

Human capital reports from meetings held between August 2015 and July 2016 show 915 teacher resignations in that time period. That’s about 15 percent of the current 6,191 teachers. According to district data, teachers left for various reasons including retirement, pay and proximity to their homes.

While 915 teachers resigned in the past 12 months, 1,274 were hired.

District officials Wednesday said the number of recent resignations was not the highest ever, but cited numbers that differ from those previously reported on the school system’s website.

Green said by phone that more resignations were reported in 2007 (1,088), 2013 (1,041), and 2015 (1030), which differs from what’s reported on the district’s website. Neighboring Gwinnett County Schools, which employs nearly twice as many educators, lost fewer than 600 who resigned in the same period.

Green said some turnover generally is expected for a district transitioning to higher standards. “It’s a natural byproduct as we begin to raise expectations and increase the level of rigor and evaluation expectation that there are going to be people who are going to find their way out of the organization,” he said. “And, to a certain degree, that is expected.

Pay has long been an issue for DeKalb County teachers, who went several years without a raise amid poor economic conditions and district funding woes.

While teachers say they're seeing more of their colleagues flee the profession, a new federal review questions the veracity of high turnover reports. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics found the percentage of teachers who leave within their first year years on the job -- widely reported at 50 percent -- is 17 percent.

According to the study:

  • Among all beginning teachers in 2007–08, 10 percent did not teach in 2008–09, 12 percent did not teach in 2009–10, 15 percent did not teach in 2010–11, and 17 percent did not teach in 2011–12
  • The percentage of beginning teachers who continued to teach after the first year varied by first-year salary level. For example, 97 percent of beginning teachers whose first-year base salary was $40,000 or more were teaching in 2008–09, whereas 87 percent of those with a first-year salary less than $40,000 were teaching in 2008–09. Also, 89 percent of beginning teachers whose first-year base salary was $40,000 or more were teaching in 2011–12, whereas 80 percent of those with a first-year salary less than $40,000 were teaching in 2011–12.
  • No differences were detected between the percentages of current teachers who started teaching in 2007–08 with a bachelor’s degree and those who started teaching in 2007–08 with a master’s degree in each of the years 2008–09 (91 percent and 89 percent, respectively), 2009–10 (88 percent), 2010–11 (85 percent and 88 percent, respectively), and 2011–12 (83 percent and 86 percent, respectively)


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.