SD6 - Feasibility Study on the Implementation of a Program to Track Teacher Turnover in the Commonwealth of Virginia (SJR 218, 2015)

Executive Summary:
The 2015 Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 218 (see Appendix A), which requested that the Virginia Department of Education study the feasibility of implementing a program in the Commonwealth to track teacher turnover by developing exit questionnaires and other means. In conducting the study, the Department was to consider and make recommendations regarding (i) an exit questionnaire for teachers separating from service or choosing early retirement that includes reasons for leaving as a function of school climate, comparative salaries of neighboring school divisions, job demands as a reflection of teacher time, nonteaching duties, student behavior, classroom management, autonomy in the classroom, opportunities for growth and improvement, and health and family considerations in conjunction with (ii) use of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator and its associated background information to estimate the dollars spent on teacher turnover for a specific school or school division in the Commonwealth or enable school leaders to design and conduct their own detailed teacher turnover cost analyses.

The Virginia Department of Education conducted research on statewide teacher surveys in nine states through Web site searches, personal interviews, and reviews of documents received from individuals who have responsibility for the surveys. The Department also conducted research on teacher turnover, with a specific emphasis on means of determining the cost of teacher turnover. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future’s (NCTAF) 2007 report, The Cost of Teacher Turnover in Five School Districts: A Pilot Study (Barnes, G., Crowe, E., & Schaefer, B., 2007), along with NCTAF’s Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator, were carefully reviewed as they were specifically mentioned in the legislation.

Finally, the Department convened a group of Virginia stakeholders to review the legislation, research, and information from other states and provide feedback on the feasibility of implementing a program in the Commonwealth to track teacher turnover by developing exit questionnaires and other means. The stakeholders group took into consideration and made recommendations regarding the use of exit surveys and the NCTAF Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator and its associated background information or enabling school leaders to design and conduct their own detailed teacher turnover cost analyses.

Based on reviewed practices from other states, information provided by Virginia’s school divisions, and input from the stakeholder group, the group offers the following recommendations:

Exit Questionnaires

• Consider Virginia’s participation in a working conditions survey that includes questions that may help inform schools and divisions about a “predicted teacher retention rate.” The cost for a valid and reliable survey would need to be determined through Virginia’s procurement process. One example of a working conditions survey is the TELL Survey; the New Teacher Center indicates that the cost to administer a statewide TELL Survey is approximately $150,000 during the year of administration.

Rationale: A survey provides a broad view of working conditions within schools and school divisions, not focusing only on teachers who leave, but also providing data on a number of topics related to conditions in schools that, if addressed, might encourage more teachers to remain in the profession.

• Consider developing a model exit questionnaire that Virginia schools and school divisions may administer to their exiting teachers in multiple formats, including at a minimum, on paper and online.

* The development of a model questionnaire or survey should be developed with consideration given to best practices within the human resources field as well as stakeholder input from Virginia’s school divisions.

* Use of the survey instrument by school divisions should be optional or they should have a phase-in period if use is required by the state.

* School divisions also should be able to determine the manner in which the survey is administered to their teachers (i.e., paper, online, interview, etc.)

* Consideration should be given to fund a project to work with stakeholders on the development of an exit survey instrument that is valid and reliable in the context of the intended purpose.

Rationale: Over half of Virginia’s school divisions indicated they already administer exit surveys or conduct exit interviews with departing employees; however, there is great variation in the survey/interview instruments.

Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator

If being able to determine the cost of teacher turnover is deemed critical to reduce the teacher attrition rate in Virginia:

• Consider development of an online teacher turnover cost calculator specific to Virginia’s needs; and

Rationale: The NCTAF Web-based Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator, mentioned in the legislative resolution, was developed in 2007, and the underlying assumptions have not been reviewed or updated since that time. If the cost of teacher turnover is viewed as a key component in reducing teacher attrition, consideration should be given to issuing a Request for Proposals to determine the proposed cost of developing such a tool unique to Virginia’s needs. However, there likely would be an additional cost to update on a regular basis the underlying assumptions in a cost calculator, and the use of a cost calculator still would require school divisions to disaggregate cost data for entry into the cost calculator. Recommendations noted below cite concerns by many school divisions about the time and effort required to collect and report such data.

• Consider funding a study of the cost of teacher turnover in a representative sample of Virginia school divisions to establish an average cost of teacher turnover in Virginia.

Rationale: School division staff expressed concern about their capacity to isolate and disaggregate the cost data required to use a teacher turnover cost calculator and indicated that time, funding, and additional guidance would need to be provided to establish uniformity across the state. A study of the cost of teacher turnover in a representative sample of Virginia school divisions may establish a base-line metric to provide data to legislators, the public, and other stakeholders for future information and planning without the need to collect such data from all school divisions.

A Program to Track Teacher Turnover in the Commonwealth of Virginia

• Consider providing funding to add several fields to the teacher work force database administered by the Virginia Department of Education to enable calculation of a statelevel teacher turnover rate and to determine why instructional personnel leave.

* The VDOE already collects teacher work force information at the state level, including each teacher’s name, school, license type, teaching assignments, endorsement areas, federal highly qualified status, and route to endorsement, which includes the higher education institution where the teacher completed his or her teacher preparation if he or she followed a “traditional” route to licensure as opposed to an alternate route.

* Additional data of interest might include the teacher’s age, teaching experience in the school and school division, the number of instructional personnel who separate from a school or school division each year, and their reasons for leaving.

Rationale: Research suggests that these additional data points may be useful in conducting analysis of trends in Virginia’s teaching work force. Additionally, Virginia’s Plan to Ensure Excellent Educators for All Students (Virginia Department of Education, 2015), submitted to the United States Department of Education in June 2015, indicates that several of these data points are under consideration for inclusion in future data collections. However, school divisions expressed concerns about the time and effort necessary to respond to an already lengthy list of state reporting requirements.

• Use of an exit survey should remain optional.

* An exit survey likely would contain more information than just why an employee left. It has the potential to provide information to a school or school division to help address broader issues.

* Actions to address school- or division-level issues are best developed at the local level.

Rationale: The need for teachers in specific content areas as well as the teacher turnover rate vary across school divisions, and each division benefits from adopting strategies that best suit its needs and capabilities. Concern was expressed by school divisions about having the ability to track down responses from all separating personnel if a statewide requirement to administer exit surveys and report data collected was implemented.