In and out in less than five: Teaching's revolving door

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There's been lots of talk about how the poor economy is causing teachers around the country to stay in their jobs longer. But as Bill Turque's recent investigation for The Washington Post reveals, not so in Washington, D.C. Nor 40 miles up I-95 in Baltimore.

Both districts have pretty dismal retention rates: Only 57 percent of teachers working in Baltimore three years ago are still there now. In D.C., only 41 percent remain.

Even the great talent reputedly recruited by these two districts well-known dynamic superintendents haven't stuck around. In Baltimore, nearly half of teachers who left the district in 2009-2010 had less than five years' experience. The heavy reliance by both these districts on Teach For America has had some impact on these low rates (by the third year, half of Baltimore's TFA recruits are gone), but traditionally trained teachers don't have much more staying power, with two out of every five teachers gone by year three.

Both districts now promote site-based, mutual consent hiring for all teachers, which goes a long way to ensuring that teachers are a good fit for their schools and are working with colleagues who share their perspectives. But they also both have recognized that fixing teacher pay is necessary. D.C.'s contract offers effective teachers, and those teaching in the most challenging schools, the opportunity for sizeable bonuses on top of their base pay. Baltimore's brand-new deal completely revamps its salary structure, getting rid of the step-and-lane salary schedule that rewards teachers only on experience and how many masters' courses they've racked up, instead paying teachers more for so-called "achievement units," awarded based on good evaluations and participation in professional development.

The jury's still out, but we're hoping that Baltimore's and D.C.'s new teacher contracts can at least help slow down that revolving door.