A teacher's thoughts on the teacher shuffle

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Our guest blogger is Wagma Mommandi, a 10th grade science teacher in D.C. Public Schools. She wrote in response to NCTQ's post on "the teacher shuffle."

As NCTQ noted last week, there's been a recent wave of initiatives aiming to get highly effective teachers to transfer to high-need schools. But while these initiatives are well-intentioned, they don't focus enough on the real reason low-income students are so often shortchanged: high teacher attrition. To address this problem, programs like the federally funded Talent Transfer Initiative and the legislation passed by the D.C. City Council need to link monetary incentives for teachers to:

  1. performance after the transfer and 
  2. a minimum service commitment from the teacher.

High-need schools almost always have a greater proportion of new teachers because turnover is incredibly high and vacant positions are filled with a fresh crop of inexperienced teachers who are not immediately highly effective. This cycle will continue until there is a paradigm shift focusing on retaining teachers. The D.C. Council and TTI proposals do not address this cycle.

Both proposals give teachers large sums of money to transfer to high-need schools, not to stay and perform well in high-need schools. The TTI report offered a monetary incentive of $20,000 over two years for teaching in a low-achieving school. What happens after those two years when the monetary incentive is no longer there or if the teacher has not lived up to expectations? Both proposals fail to acknowledge turnover and that teachers' high performance might not automatically transfer between schools.

The stressors of working in a high-need school will remain for the foreseeable future, so strong proposals must link the incentive to a minimum time commitment to ensure truly highly effective teachers stay put. Furthermore, teachers earning the incentive must continue to demonstrate effective teaching, otherwise their presence may not benefit students. Until there is more data on retention rates and performance evaluations of highly effective transfers, initiatives like TTI are not worth further stretching school budgets. 

Wagma Mommandi