“Keep Our Oakland Teachers!” – Teacher Retention

The data gurus at OUSD recently released a dashboard focused on teacher retention rates in OUSD. (Side note: I’ve found this announcement page from OUSD Data to be very helpful in keeping track of their newest data releases and news!) I’ve been thinking a lot about teacher retention ever since our Celebrate Oakland Teachers Night (plus all those news reports about California’s dire teacher shortage) – so of course I had to dig deeper!

Question 1: How high (or low) is teacher retention in Oakland public schools?

Answer: Three-year retention ranges from 40% to 70%, varying school and region.

Specifically, middle schools and the schools in the Elevation network (which are the schools that the district is making an intensive effort to improve) have the highest turnover. On average, a student in an OUSD middle school will watch two-thirds of the teachers leave by the time s/he completes 8th grade. Yikes! It raises an important question: How, as a city and a community, can we ensure that our students with the greatest needs get our city’s best educators?

Figure 1. Average teacher retention rate at sites by Network. Courtesy of OUSD.
Schools in the Northwest have higher teacher retention than schools in the East and West – not coincidentally the areas that have higher poverty and crime.
Figure 2. Average teacher retention rate at sites by SRA region. Courtesy of OUSD

A few other things to notice in this data:

  • One-year retention clearly doesn’t tell the whole picture: On an annual basis, teacher retention rates in some regions don’t look so bad (>80%). But, an average three-year site-based retention rate of 54%* district-wide is definitely not good – half of the teachers are different in three years!
  • Retention rates have declined slightly over the past 5 years: In the recent years (’11-12 to ’15-16), teacher retention rate in OUSD has dropped a little more each year from 83% to 79.5%. The drop in retention rates from 2008 to 2011 was almost certainly driven by recession-era reductions in available teaching positions.
Figure 3. Retention of teachers in OUSD from 2006-2016. Courtesy of OUSD

Eagle-eyed folks will notice that this data is limited to district-run schools. Unfortunately, teacher retention data for charter schools isn’t collected centrally or comprehensively. This is a gap I’d love to see addressed moving forward to provide a citywide look at retention!

Question 2: Are teacher retention rates and school quality correlated?

Teachers are the people directly working with our kids every day in the classroom. We often hear that teacher longevity directly impacts the quality of students’ educational experience. As a data nerd, of course I need to ask: What does the data say?

Answer: Yup!

There does seem to be a relationship, with higher teacher retention rates at schools with a higher School Performance Framework (SPF) score. While there is wide variation in Tier 2 and 3 schools, every single school in Tier 4 or 5 has an average retention rate of higher than 70%.

But, here is a big data nerd caution: even though there seems to be a correlation, we don’t know about causation! This may be a “chicken or egg” question: does high teacher turnover drive low student achievement and school culture? Or are working conditions and environment at the school accounting for the correlation between high turnover and high student need? Or, are both school quality and teacher retention symptoms of other causal factors?

A musing: You know what data I’d REALLY like know? Retention not schoolwide or region-wide or district-wide, but retention of our most impactful teachers – i.e. those teachers that are instructional wizards, amazing with family relationships, or really hold down a school culture. I wonder if the new Teacher Growth and Development System (TGDS) would provide data on this…

Questions 3: What can we do about this?

Answer: Glad you asked!

While we know about factors that increase teacher retention from a national perspective (see TNTP’s Greenhouse Schools report), we don’t have enough data locally to really understand the root causes of what’s causing our teachers to leave Oakland classrooms. (Of course I’m biased because I always think data is critical to getting to the answers!) To understand what affects our teachers’ engagement and satisfaction, Educate78’s Teacher Advisory Group is leading a citywide teacher retention survey. The results of this survey will enable us to connect local results with the national patterns that Gallup has seen: i.e. the more engaged a teacher is, the more likely they will stay in their current job.

PLEASE HELP US SHED LIGHT ON THIS TOPIC: ENCOURAGE ALL OAKLAND TEACHERS YOU KNOW TO TAKE THE SURVEY!

(PS: check out here what we did with this data last year! If you’re interested in learning more, keepan eye out for TeachOakland Grant page)

*This an average of the different regions. I recognized that averaging across the regions is not the best approach mathematically since the regions all differ in the number of teachers compared to the pure district-wide average, but the data is not downloadable for me to calculate quickly.

### My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.

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OUSD Superintendents: Now and Then

Collage of some of the Oakland district leaders from the past 50 years (not comprehensive, includes photos where available).

With the departure of Oakland Unified Superintendent Antwan Wilson last week, the search is on!

I have a sense of déjà vu: we’ve been down this road quite a bit. As a data nerd, I started wondering about our previous superintendents. Who has led OUSD in the past 50 years? How many superintendents have we really had? How long did they serve? Are there any patterns or trends? I’m hoping some of the facts might help inform our current search.

NOTE: Oakland’s superintendents have been Board-hired, State-appointed (due to 2 state takeovers, both within the past 30 years), and Interim. I’ve focused my analysis on the first two categories.

FAST FACTS:

Of the 24 leaders who guided OUSD in the past 50 years, 10 were interim (42%) while the rest were “permanent” superintendents, either Board-hired or State-appointed.

  • In the past 50 years, 43% of our appointed Superintendents had previous OUSD experience. In the past 20 years, only 29% of Superintendents had previous OUSD experience. This downward trajectory is concerning if we think Oakland background or context matters. But this requires thoughtful, intentional grooming of future talent – or we’re forced to hire from the outside, as we’ve done. For example, there hasn’t been a Black interim superintendent in the last 20 years and all 4 past Black appointed superintendents were from outside OUSD.
  • In the past 50 years, not including Interims, 6 of 14 (43%) of our Superintendents had previous OUSD experience. But in the past 20 years, the percentage has dropped, with only 2 out of 7 (29%) with prior OUSD experience. If we think Oakland experience matters, we need to do a better job grooming, retaining and rewarding our future local leaders.
  • Average tenure of Oakland Superintendents (not including Interims) over the past 20 years is 2.4 years – almost exactly how long Wilson stayed! If we look farther back to the past 50 years, the average is a little higher at 3.4 years. The longest service in the past 20 years? Anthony (Tony) Smith at 4 years. For comparison, J.W. McClymonds served 24 years as Superintendent of OUSD, over a century ago, from 1889 to 1913. We know that continuity of leadership matters in public school education because it takes years to make meaningful changes – so we need to do a better job finding leaders who want to stay for the long-term, and we need to support them so that they do.

Some Interesting Observations:

PREVIOUS OAKLAND EXPERIENCE & LONGEVITY ARE NOT COROLLATED!

I’ve heard a lot of people express interest in hiring a local, someone who has prior Oakland experience (myself included). But, over the past 20 years, the leaders with Oakland experience and those with zero OUSD previous experience stayed the same amount of time on average (2.6 years for OUSD experience vs. 2.8 years for non-OUSD experience). So, hiring someone local does not ensure longevity (although local may beneficial in other ways).  Food for thought: what DOES ensure longevity, if not existing ties to district?

OUR LEADERSHIP HAS NOT REFLECTED STUDENT DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS.

Over the past few decades, Oakland’s population has shifted and OUSD students are now approximately 45% Latino (25% Black, 13% Asian, 10% White). But only 2 of our last 11 Superintendents (including interims) in the past 20 years share the racial background of our largest student population.

THERE’S A GLASS CEILING HERE, TOO.

Women are underrepresented in leadership roles across industries and organizations, and unfortunately, OUSD is not an exception. In the past 20 years, only 2 out of 7 Superintendents were female – despite the fact that staff are disproportionately female.

THIS DECISION MATTERS.

43% of our “permanent” superintendents in the last 20 years have been state-appointed. Today, unlike all those other times, we have a voice in who leads our district. Let’s use it! Please tell your board representative what you think is important in this selection!

If you are like me and really just want to see the cold, hard data, see here for more in-depth analysis I did to reach all of the above.

*P.S.: Data I would love to add: how many past Superintendents share the background of our highest need students? I think this is a powerful leadership quality.

**P.S.S.: Special thanks to Jean Wing, Executive Director of Data & Assessment at OUSD, for providing data on past superintendents dating back to 1870, and Mara Benitez for her thoughtful insights.

### My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.

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School Performance Framework Deep(er) Dive: Part 2 – Who’s improving…and who’s getting left behind?

Oakland Unified reported in its November Board meeting that its schools had an average 0.15 point improvement (recall that scores are from a 1-6 scale). 51 schools showed improved scores while 35 decreased in scores. Of course, we know that averages often mask interesting differences. Let’s look at the distribution of OUSD schools’ growth in SPF scores.

That’s quite a distribution; many schools are making substantial gains (0.25+, which translates to moving up a quarter of a tier) but many others have lost substantial ground. We wondered if the gains are evenly spread or concentrated in certain tiers (i.e. are the top schools also improving the most overall?).

We put together this visual representation so that we can dig in deeper.

In other words, many of the low-performing district schools (Tier 1) have improved over the course of last year! Tier 2 schools had very similar growth stats: 64% of the Tier 2 schools improved in the last year. It was heartening to see the equity-driven efforts at OUSD making a positive impact.

Tier 5 schools largely did not improve, but also didn’t drop enough to yield a change in tier. (i.e. like the difference between an A and A-.)

One big surprise: many of the schools whose scores dropped were doing OK (Tier 3). 56% of schools who received Tier 3 status in 2014-15 performed worse in 2015-16. Sad! It’s like the problem of an average student: he or she receives less attention when the teacher focuses time on catching up the students who are behind (Tier 1, 2), while the high-performing kids (Tier 4, 5) have outside support to excel even if they don’t get attention in class.

Food for thought: what is the strategy for the Tier 3 schools (i.e. “okay but not great yet” schools) in Oakland? How do we help them go from good to great, without losing momentum on improving the Tier 1 and 2 schools? With OUSD deep in budget and prioritization conversations, this decision of how best to improve schools for as many children as possible will be front and center.

In a future post, we’ll will dive deeper into which changes most affected gains and losses in schools’ SPF scores (i.e. SBAC results or suspension rates? Whole school changes or closing an achievement gap?), and how those might connect to OUSD initiatives and priorities.

What’s Next for SPF?

Oakland has 130 public schools. So far, the SPF is currently only published for the 77 district-operated traditional schools. That’s only 64% of the public schools in Oakland! We have been glad to hear that OUSD is collaborating with charter schools to develop a version of the SPF for charters so that data on ALL public schools are accessible and can be understood by everyone.

### My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.

School Performance Framework Deep(er) Dive: Part 1 – Overview

Data nerds in Oakland rejoiced last November when the Oakland Unified School District released School Performance Framework reports for 2015-16.  After a soft launch internal to the District in 2014-15, this was the first public release of the School Performance Framework (SPF) – a snapshot of how schools are doing. We now have an easier, visual, way to understand the current state and trajectory of OUSD schools, with a plan to add all other Oakland public schools (i.e. charters) this coming year.

Why does the SPF matter?

The SPF is a HUGE step to making Oakland school data more visible and understandable to the general public. Like the stars system on Yelp or report cards for students, it puts relevant information into the hands of people who need to know in an easily digestible and visual form.

SPF Tiers

What’s special about the SPF?

When thinking about school quality, many people tend to gravitate to a single measure: results on standardized tests. Alternatively, word of mouth, and therefore often socioeconomically defined networks of friends and acquaintances, can define reputation more than any objective set of measurements. Both of these extremes are too one-dimensional, or worse, misleading.

The new School Performance Framework from OUSD is a much more equitable, comprehensive, and developmental.

For example:

  • It looks at both whole school populations AND subgroups that are often left behind in classrooms, such as low-income or African-American students. This highlights achievement gaps between groups of students that might not be immediately evident.
  • It captures a number of different factors that contribute to school quality. The SPF includes metrics related to both academic (state testing, reading levels, etc.) and climate (suspensions, EL reclassification rates, etc.).  Hooray for a multi-measure approach! All the metrics are scored and weighted, resulting in an aggregate score from 1 to 6 (rounding down to get the tier).
  • It considers both absolute performance AND growth. Knowing how much a school has improved is critical for highlighting historically lower-performing schools that are now making huge strides for students.

The overall result? The following bar chart shows the tier by tier comparisons for the soft launch year and last year. We see some mild progress overall, with a 33% decrease in the lowest tier, and a 33% increase in schools in the middle or yellow Tier 3. Tiers 2, 4, and 5, all essentially remained steady. My upcoming posts will delve into the details behind the movements up and down the scale for individual schools, and then what is underlying that in terms of student subgroups and correlation with OUSD programs.

OUSD SPF Scores from 2014-15 to 2015-16

 

By the way, Oakland has been leading the way on this. In September, the CA State Board of Education adopted an evaluation rubric for schools to replace the old Academic Performance Index (API) that is also multi-measure, includes growth, and absolute performance and looks at subgroups…sound familiar?!

Next up: Who’s improving…and who’s getting left behind? (Looking at 2015-2016 SPF results)

### My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.

SBAC Oakland & Equity, Part 3

CRUNCHED!

A data-based look at Oakland public schools

Happy New Year! We are back with the last post in our three-part blog series about 2016 SBAC results for subpopulations in Oakland public schools. This post is focused on Latino and African American students, two groups of students who historically have been underserved.

Hispanic/Latino students make up biggest ethnic subgroup in Oakland – 45% of students in public schools citywide. The following schools serve more than 80% Latino students and outperform the district average.

Hidden Gems: Schools with High Latino Population (>80% of Student Body) whose Latino Population Outperformed Citywide Average (sorted based on highest aggregate differential between school’s ELA and Math scores and citywide average)

Have to offer kudos once again to Acorn Woodland, whose Latino students outperformed the citywide average for all students in both ELA and Math! This was the only OUSD school to achieve this “two-fer”, though Life did in ELA.

The Latino students at Lighthouse High and Oakland Unity High far outperformed not only the city average in both ELA and Math, but out-performed the statewide averages for all students (59% in ELA, 33% in Math)! Families who consider leaving Oakland because they believe the high schools are bad are missing out on these two high schools.

African American students comprise about 25% of Oakland’s public school student population, and have also historically been underserved. Here are five schools in which African American students outperform the city average:

Hidden Gems: Schools with High AA Population whose AA Population Outperformed Citywide Average (sorted based on highest aggregate differential between school’s ELA and Math scores and citywide average)

The performance of COVA’s African American students in ELA is the 30th best among the 129 public schools in Oakland. Maybe it’s something to do with giving students a well-rounded education that includes the music and arts?!

Many of the schools listed in this post today don’t get named in the usual lists of academic high performers but I believe they deserve recognition for the demonstrated quality of education they are providing to groups of students who are historically underserved, not just in Oakland but across the country.

Absolute performance is just one measure of academic progress, but growth in SBAC scores will be an equally insightful measure on student progress, as well as inspecting the achievement gap in schools to see if schools are serving all students equitably. To be continued in future posts!

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My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.

SBAC Oakland & Equity, Part 2

CRUNCHED!

A data-based look at Oakland public schools

Welcome back to our continued examination of SBAC data of Oakland schools. In this post, we’ll look at the schools where English Learners (EL) represent more than 50% of the students and see who is doing well for that subgroup, which across the city comprises 30% of our public school students. Be sure to check out the first blog in this series on why we should look beyond just absolute performance of whole student population.

Hidden Gems: Schools with EL Population of more than 50% of students whose EL Population Outperformed Oakland Average (sorted based on highest aggregate differential between school’s ELA and Math scores and citywide average)

We were disheartened to see that there is only one school in this category. However, huge props to Lincoln Elementary for outperforming the Oakland average in math while serving an oft-underserved population!

In the interest of finding other schools to learn from, we also looked at schools with a high concentration of EL students whose EL population is outperforming the Oakland EL average:

Hidden Gems: Schools with EL Population of more than 50% of students whose EL Population Outperformed Oakland’s EL Average by at least 5 Total Percentage Points* (sorted based on highest aggregate differential between school’s ELA and Math scores and citywide average)

Given how language-intensive the SBAC is (even the Math portion), looking at only this test is insufficient for understanding the progress of our English Learners. It also overlooks important differences within our English Learner population, which includes dozens of different primary languages and range in experience from refugees who have just come from a war-torn homeland, to students born in Oakland who speak a heritage language at home.

If you have ideas on how to better track the progress of our EL students in a way that is reliable and consistent across schools, I’d love to hear from you! Please shoot us an email!

A growing number of schools in Oakland have created newcomer programs to address the influx of immigrants, unaccompanied minors, refugees and asylees. Some of these children have experienced extreme violence and trauma and have had little or no formal schooling. Others speak native languages unfamiliar to any staff member at the school. These schools, like Oakland International High School, may not make it onto a “high performing on SBAC list” but deserve applause for their amazing and dedicated efforts to serve newcomers. We’ll feature more in a future blog post about EL students and newcomer programs across the city (including a dual-immersion middle school that is currently in the works)!  Stay tuned!

Next time: a closer look at schools with a high percentage of Latino and African American students, two subpopulations that often are left behind in classrooms.

*We understand from talking with others who analyze SBAC data that different schools may use different methodologies for even classifying students as EL, so we may be missing some schools that reclassify students more quickly.

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My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.