Will an Oakland District Initiative Slow Teacher Turnover or Make it Worse?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ask students at McClymonds High School about their teachers and you'll likely hear this: They work hard, but they don't stay long.

"Since I've been here, we've never had steady teachers," said Da'Jon Ford, a junior at the West Oakland high school.

Teacher turnover is one of the greatest obstacles facing the city's struggling high schools, particularly those in the poor and working-class flatland neighborhoods of East and West Oakland. Many of the openings are filled with rookies who make a two-year commitment, or with teachers displaced from other positions in the district. Two years ago, all but a handful of the McClymonds teachers left, along with the former principal.

Supporters and critics of a controversial staffing plan at Oakland's Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds high schools differ sharply on whether it will break that cycle or make the problem even worse.

Superintendent Tony Smith is requiring all teachers at those schools to apply for a new teacher-on-special assignment position if they want to remain on those campuses next year. In exchange for 18 extra days of work, they would earn an additional $4,000 to $6,000. The mandatory school year would remain the same length for students as it is now.

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