Washington, D.C. – Good morning Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Grosso, and members of the Council.
My name is Shannon Hodge and I am the Founding Executive Director of the DC Charter School Alliance (“DC Alliance”), the local non-profit that advocates on behalf of public charter schools to ensure that all students in the District receive the great public education they deserve. I am here to testify about Bill 23-515, the “Statewide Educational Data Warehouse Amendment Act of 2019”.
Understanding our city’s teaching force is of paramount concern. We absolutely need to have confidence that our city and schools are doing everything possible to retain effective teachers.
However, the bill before you is an ineffective way to advance that cause. Understanding teacher retention and attrition in the District is not a reporting issue. It is a research issue. And one that deserves to be fully researched. We need to build upon years of work on this very topic in this very city. For example, over the past few years, the Staffing Data Collaborative helped school leaders learn about local and national research on retention and how it could be used to improve the learning and teaching environment in their schools. DC schools administered the Insight Survey to teachers for years to understand firsthand what factors teachers considered when deciding whether to leave their schools. And many DC schools have analyzed teacher equity data and developed plans to make sure that their students have effective, experienced teachers year after year. None of this is reflected in the bill before you.
Researching teacher retention and attrition in the district is essential to improving educational outcomes for students most at risk of academic failure. Yet the report proposed in the bill before you lacks both the depth and the foundation of the work that has recently been done in the city to understand and improve teacher retention. And it will leave more questions than it answers. It will not tell us whether the teachers who are leaving are effective or not. It will not tell us how DC’s teacher retention compares to that of other major metropolitan areas. It will not tell us the strategies that the city and schools should implement to retain effective teachers.
If we truly want to understand and improve teacher retention, a report will not suffice. We need research conducted by independent, non-governmental organizations that have the capacity to do the work.
Fortunately, this Council has already established the best mechanism for conducting this type of research project—the District of Columbia Education Research Practice Partnership established just last year. Rather than undermine its own legislation by passing the bill currently before you, the Council should devote its energy to ensuring that legislation it has already enacted is fully implemented to improve the quality of knowledge about teacher retention in the District.
An effective exploration of teacher retention in the District would build upon the work that has already been done and is being done in this area, and I encourage the Council to use the previously established research-practice partnership to do so (1). Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and I welcome any questions.
By Shannon T. Hodge
Founding Executive Director, DC Charter School Alliance
Although it is not entirely clear, one possible reading of the legislation’s requirements would lead to the identification of teachers, their demographic information, their educational backgrounds, and their employment decisions, especially at smaller schools.