The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:56 pm

High-poverty schools losing more teachers

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A panel of education stakeholders analyzing teacher recruitment and retention met for the first time Friday and heard data showing lower retention rates for schools with high-poverty and/or minority rates.

Overall, about 81 percent of Indiana teachers remained at their school district between the 2012-13 school year and the 2013-14 school year.

But it counts those who retire and teachers who simply move to another district as not retained. That means the data don’t fully show how many Indiana teachers are actually leaving the profession early.

"We’re talking in broad strokes as a state," Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said. "Once you hire a teacher and you know they are good you want to keep them."

She also said most schools have a retention problem but it’s greatest in schools with higher levels of poverty.

She appointed the 49-member blue ribbon commission last week. The group can suggest strategies including possible legislative proposals but has no authority.

The statistics given were gathered during an equity study required by the federal government.

That report categorized a retention rate of 85 percent or above as positive; between 65 percent and 85 percent as cautionary; and below 65 percent as negative.

The data showed Fort Wayne Community Schools with a retention rate of 70 percent; Southwest Allen County Schools at 86 percent; Northwest Allen County Schools at 86 percent; and East Allen County Schools at 83 percent.

Statewide, the retention rates were the lowest among newer teachers in high-poverty schools.

Wayne High School had the lowest retention rate in northeast Indiana at 41 percent. South Side High School followed with 45 percent and the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy also at 45 percent. 

The data also showed the average salary for teachers with up to seven years of experience rising by 8 to 9 percentage points from 2012 to 2015. But then the percentage change drops steadily until reaching teachers with 20 years of experience.

The average salary in 2014 for a new teacher is $37,044; those with between 10 and 15 years experience made $54,000; and those over 30 years of experience at $63,000.

Caitlin Beatson, of the Indiana Department of Education, listed 10 reasons as root causes for low retention rates, focusing specifically on professional development; working conditions/compensation; and public perception.

Several members of the panel, though, questioned how those causes were arrived at – one even calling them conjecture or potential root causes at best.

The panel broke into smaller groups to discuss some of the causes.

The next meeting is set for Sept. 24 to focus on recruitment of new teachers. The group will meet several times more before December when action steps and legislative agenda will be discussed.

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