Report details the struggle to recruit at NC’s low-performing schools

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

“You are confirming what, anecdotally, we all would expect,” said A.L. Collins, vice chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education.

Expected, perhaps, but no less troubling, it would seem. Collins’ words came shortly after staff with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction presented a report to the state board Wednesday that quantified, in bitter detail, the apparent struggle for North Carolina’s low-performing schools to recruit high-quality teachers.

Based on the report, presented by Tom Tomberlin, director of district human resources for DPI, the attrition rate for teachers at low-performing schools and their counterparts has been surprisingly similar since 2013. Since then, both designations have seen about 22 percent of their teachers depart.

But replacing those losses at low-performing schools, according to Tomberlin, is clearly a tall order.

Teachers are evaluated on their students’ performance, he said, falling into three classes that indicate whether an educator met expected growth, exceeded expected growth or did not meet expected growth.

Of the new hires at low performing schools in the 2013-2014 academic year, nearly a quarter, 24 percent, did not meet expected growth. That number rose to 28 percent in 2014-2015.

There’s a stark difference compared to non-low performing schools, where only about 13 percent of new hires in 2013-2014 did not meet expected growth and 19 percent fell short in 2014-2015.

And while he could only speculate about why, Tomberlin said it seems that gifted teachers, even if they begin work at a low-performing school, are likely to eventually seek employment at a more academically burnished school. Low performing schools, he said, are left with less experienced or effective teachers, based on the data.

“If this trend continues, these schools have very little chance of emerging from low-performing status,” he said.

Given the state’s very public struggles with retaining teachers in recent years—at least partially because, by 2014, the state was ranked a dismal 47th in the nation in teacher pay—education leaders say the trend must be reversed.

State board member Olivia Holmes Oxendine said DPI staff should prepare policy recommendations for them to consider at a future board meeting. Most board members Wednesday seemed to agree.

“To me, it is a systems problem, not a teacher problem,” said June Atkinson, state superintendent of public instruction. Atkinson said teachers need more instructional support and development opportunities.

Tomberlin said he expects to have recommendations prepared for the board in March.


  1. eilene

    January 7, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Well, that AND the fact that we teachers are judged on the students’ “growth”, which is a made-up number that the NCDPI “thinks” the child should score. If they don’t get or beat the make-believe number, we are bad teachers. And the formula used to determine the make-believe numbers is convoluted and statistically invalid, which we can’t prove because they won’t show it to us. So none of us want to take on classes that we think will make us a target for being put on a plan for being ineffective as a teacher. It’s almost as bad teaching the highest-performing students, though. If they predict little Sally is going to get a 98, and she gets a 97, a wonderful score, but she did not meet growth, and that must be the teacher’s fault. I have had students in my class that have a 12% for a grade, arrest records, drug issues, etc. that have been “predicted” to get 90’s and 95’s on the state final exam. Really? Their high school biology predictions are partially based on their 8th grade reading and math scores. I can at least see the logic in the reading, because they have to understand the question, but the math is a bit dodgy to me. And, since 8th grade, they’ve gotten a girlfriend, a job, a drug habit, a cell phone, they now stay up playing video games or texting until 2am, you name it. So tell me again how they are going to get a 95, and if they don’t, it’s my fault?

  2. […] schools that are ‘low performing,’ which typically have student populations with high needs (more on that here from NC Policy Watch’s new education reporter, Billy […]

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