School district turnover up, but on pace with state

Officials say staff changes `on track' with recent years

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Teacher and overall staff turnover in the Douglas County School District rose from 2012-13 to 2013-14, putting it at a level similar to the state as a whole.

DCSD teacher turnover is up about 4 percentage points, from 13.26 percent in 2012-13 to 17.28 percent in 2013-14, according to the Colorado Department of Education. Total staff turnover — which includes principals, administrators, office support, paraprofessionals, trade and other employees — increased about 2.4 percentage points, from 17.66 to 20.05.

In 2013-14, average teacher turnover in Colorado was 16.65 percent, and total staff turnover was 20.37 percent.

Critics in recent years have said DCSD's education reforms have prompted many teachers to leave. But school district leaders say the turnover is not alarming.

“Turnover in DCSD across all employee groups remains on track with recent years,” DCSD spokeswoman Paula Hans said in an emailed statement. “For the 2013-14 school year, DCSD is once again below the state average, with 20.05 percent in total turnover. Neighboring school districts are as high as 32 percent in turnover for the most recent school year.”

Denver Public Schools, which also has been in the process of implementing education reform, recorded total turnover of 31.61 percent.

DCSD's total staff turnover rate in 2013-14 was higher than the neighboring, suburban Cherry Creek (17.26 percent), Jeffco (14.76 percent) and Littleton (13.64 percent) districts. The same was true for teacher turnover.

The Douglas County district's best teachers are, for the most part, staying. Under the district's rating system, 21 percent of teachers are considered highly effective; 5 percent of those teachers recently left DCSD, according to the district. Most of the teachers — 70 percent — are rated effective; of those, 7 percent left the district. Of the 1 percent rated ineffective, 88 percent left.

“DCSD is in the midst of a rigorous transformation of American education,” the email from Hans said. “Professional educators are redesigning, and in some cases completely reinventing our outcomes, assessments, teaching strategies and evaluations. As part of this process, we are raising expectations and turnover is to be expected.”

Looking back in five-year increments, CDE statistics show a rise in DCSD's turnover rate. Teacher turnover was at 10.16 percent in 2008-09, and 12.5 percent in 2003-04. Total staff turnover in those years was 15.35 percent in 2008-09 and 16.6 percent in 2003-04.

“To see the turnover rate for administrators and teachers compared to years past for Douglas County shows how unhappy people are,” said Courtney Smith, president of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers. “What they're doing in Douglas County is not working, despite their slogan.”

CDE's turnover calculations are different from DCSD's, the district says. For instance, an in-district promotion or transfer is viewed by CDE as turnover, the email said. In the teacher category alone, Hans said, that decreases turnover from 17.28 percent to 14.63 percent.

But that would apply to and potentially change all CDE turnover statistics, not just in Douglas County. The department of education confirmed its statewide turnover report does not account for promotions or transfers, but compares staff identification numbers and the job classification from year to year. 

In recent months, DCSD has seen turnover in upper-administration positions. Former assistant superintendent of secondary education Dan McMinimee and system performance officer Syna Morgan accepted positions with Jeffco Public Schools. McMinimee is the district's new superintendent and Morgan its chief academic officer.