District Trendline

What's resonating with school district leaders and staff in 2023

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We've learned a lot about our nation's school districts over the last year. For example, of the 148 largest districts in the country, all offer at least eight days of paid leave, but only 27 of the districts in that group offer their teachers paid parental leave for the arrival of a child.

We also learned that many teachers are being priced out of home ownership. Home rentals and average house prices have increased by more than 20% and 40% respectively in the last five years, while teacher salaries have increased 15%.

It's insights like that, pulled from the NCTQ Teacher Contract Database, that can illustrate opportunities to better attract and retain quality teachers. We've brought you our District Trendline blog and newsletter to share what we're learning and show you the trends so that people like you, school district staff and leadership, see what works in building and supporting a high-quality teacher workforce.

As we close out 2023, we like to look back and see what resonated with you and your peers across the country, and share that roundup with you.

Top two of 2023
Our two most popular District Trendline blogs this year both focus on whether districts provide adequate pay and benefits to teachers. Topping the list was actually a piece from late 2022, How many school districts offer paid parental leave?.
We're including it in the 2023 roundup because it got a major boost after NPR, CBS News, and other media outlets reported on it, making it the most-read piece of 2023. This analysis found that less than a quarter of districts in the sample offer paid family leave. More than half of districts that offer paid leave do not pay teachers their full salary. Six of these districts deduct the cost of paying for a substitute from a teacher's family leave pay.

In addition to family leave policies, as districts think about the best incentives to attract and retain teachers, our second most popular analysis focused on teacher salaries and housing costs. Teacher salaries, cost of rent, and home prices: Can teachers afford to live where they teach? found that in fifteen of the metropolitan areas we looked at, novice teachers cannot even afford to rent a one-bedroom home. In a handful of areas, it would take teachers more than two decades to save up enough for a down payment on a home of their own.

Runners up
Teacher planning and support
Several other widely read pieces reflect the strong interest district leaders have in supporting their teacher workforce through planning time and professional development. The piece, Planning time may help mitigate teacher burnout—but how much planning time do teachers get? found that teachers' planning time has barely budged in the decade since NCTQ began tracking this data. On average, teachers get about 47 minutes per day of planning time (with secondary teachers receiving a few minutes more per day than elementary teachers). Another popular Trendline, Investing in new teacher orientation and mentoring can produce long-term benefits, looked at how districts acclimate novice teachers to the job. Most large districts offer new teacher orientation, although the number of days devoted to this vary by district. Research finds that having two years of mentoring is associated with novice teachers having a positive impact on student learning, and 42% of districts we analyze follow this research, requiring at least two years of mentoring.

Diversifying the workforce
Diversifying the teacher workforce continues to be a top priority for many district leaders, as Trendline subscribers were eager to learn from what has worked well in other districts. In Seven strategies school districts are using to increase teacher diversity, NCTQ shared the work of five districts from across the country as they built their pool of potential teachers of color, supported principals in making good hiring decisions, and created a system in which teachers want to stay. We also explored district policies that can help diversify the teacher workforce in Increasing teacher diversity: Four ways districts can take action.

Workforce retention
Notably, a piece on teacher layoffs was among our most viewed Trendline blogs. This interest in potential layoffs is striking and state leaders should take note. In a recent NCTQ survey of state leaders and advocates, teacher layoffs were a priority for only 2% of respondents as they considered where to focus their attention in the next three years. District leaders may be more attuned than state leaders to the impending effects of the expiring Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and shifting funding allocations due to declining student enrollment. Our piece Teacher layoffs may be coming. How do districts decide who to let go? explored what criteria districts use when making layoff decisions (nearly a third still use seniority as the primary or sole criterion), and how these policies may undercut recent gains in building a more diverse teacher workforce.

The work of district leaders is never easy, and NCTQ's trend analyses on the research-based practices and policies of large districts across the country can provide leaders with insights and information to make better policy and practical decisions. These decisions are profoundly important because of how directly they affect students and their teachers. Here's to a prosperous 2024 full of greater insights and better education for all.