Teacher Retention Up In Baltimore County

Resignations Dropped Sharply In 1 School Year

August 12, 2009|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,arin.gencer@baltsun.com

In recent years, Baltimore County schools have seen fewer teacher resignations and vacant positions at the start of an academic year, according to a district report on staff trends.

"We are retaining more teachers now than we have over the past five years," said Donald A. Peccia, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources, during a presentation to the school board Tuesday night.

Peccia also described the number of teacher vacancies over the past several years - ranging from three to seven - as "amazingly low," particularly in a system of more than 8,500 teachers.

The report follows a board presentation earlier this year that indicated county teachers were largely happy where they are and considered their schools good places to work - based on results from an anonymous state survey. But teachers union President Cheryl Bost has long contended that the school district needs to work on retaining teachers, developing a long-term plan to hold onto the experienced ones - and keeping beginners for more than their first five years.

The staffing report indicates a sharp drop in resignations this past school year, sliding to 3.7 percent of teachers, down from 6.8 percent the previous year.

Peccia has said that the economy is definitely a factor in the considerable drop in instructor resignations this past year, although there has been a continuing downward trend the past few years.

Similarly, the number of new hires overall to the system has declined since 2004, from 974 to 784 this past school year.

The latest trend report also indicates the district has made strides in ensuring all students are taught by highly qualified teachers in the main academic subjects, as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Nearly 97 percent of teachers in those areas were highly qualified this past year, compared to about 84 percent in 2003-2004. And such teachers are present in greater percentages in high-poverty elementaries, according to the report.

Several board members applauded the human-resources staff for progress in recruiting the highly qualified instructors. Member Ramona N. Johnson said she anticipated great improvements in schools in light of these developments.

"This is unbelievably fine work," member Earnest E. Hines said. Yet he also observed that staff could face more of a challenge when the economy picks back up and the district begins competing with other systems for the "best and the brightest" teaching candidates.

Vice President H. Edward Parker questioned whether highly qualified also means highly effective - to which Peccia replied that school officials were "working to get better and better" in that area.

"We still are mindful of the fact that there's a distinction between effective and highly qualified," schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said. "We constantly strive for the effective teacher that is highly qualified."

The report also noted that the percentage of minority hires has risen since the 2002-2003 school year, up to nearly 25 percent of new teachers, compared with about 16 percent then. Peccia said recruitment helped, because the school system now recruits from more than 20 historically black colleges and universities - compared with five in 2003.

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