Task Force Examines Teacher Turnover Troubles

Highland Park ISD, Dallas ISD educators serve on statewide group

A Charles Butt Foundation poll of 919 Texas public school teachers found 68% seriously considered leaving the profession in 2021, a one-year increase of 10 percentage points. 

“I do think it’s a critical juncture we’re in right now,” said Jean Streepey, a Highland Park ISD STEAM instructional coach appointed to a state task force formed to study the issue.

North Texas school districts aren’t immune from teacher turnover troubles, but not all are experiencing it to the same extent.

For example, Dallas ISD is trending better than Highland Park ISD in 2020-2021, according to Texas Education Agency data.

The turnover rates were:

• 14.3% statewide,13.8% in Dallas ISD, and 17.4% in HPISD for 2020-21.

• 16.8% statewide, 17.6% in Dallas, and 16.5% in Highland Park for 2019-2020.

• 16.5% statewide, 19.1% in Dallas, and 16.3% in Highland Park for 2018-2019.

“While it’s not a significant jump from one year to the next, there is no doubt that the stress from the pandemic had — and will likely continue to have — an impact on teacher turnover, not only in HPISD but in both public and private schools everywhere,” HPISD chief of staff Jon Dahlander said of the district’s 2020-2021 turnover rate for teachers. “To say the least, it’s been a very challenging time to be an educator.”

In addition to uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a University of Houston report showed average base teacher pay decreased from 2010 to 2019 from $55,433 to $54,192.

In hopes of examining the state’s teacher shortage problem, The Texas Education Agency announced the creation of a teacher vacancy task force. 

“Teachers are the single most important school-based factor affecting student outcomes,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “The Teacher Vacancy Task Force will further ensure our ability to provide the best guidance, support, and resources to help schools find and retain the teachers they need for all their students.”

Dallas ISD fourth and fifth-grade math teacher Josue Torres chairs the task force.

“The reason I got into education is because I believe that a student’s zip code shouldn’t determine his or her fate, and this task force has the ability to recommend the needed changes and innovative solutions necessary to ensure all Texas students have access to the high-quality educators they deserve,” Torres said.

The task force initially drew criticism for a lack of public school teachers among its members but has since expanded to include two dozen more.

“I think adding additional teachers to the task force will help us understand the problem better,” Streepey said. “We need to understand the day-to-day problems they’re facing.”

She cited increased scrutiny and additional duties as issues. For example, kindergarten-through-third grade teachers and principals must attend a “teacher literacy achievement academy” by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

“They’re just worn out,” said Streepey, vice chair of the State Board for Educator Certification. “We want to retain those teachers. We want to support them and let them know we’re willing to make changes.”

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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