November 13, 2012

The Nov. 10 editorial “Passing a test,” about a study of the effect of D.C. school reforms, neglected to point out that the New Teacher Project, author of the study, was founded by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and is under contract with the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) to provide teacher recruits. It is hardly a disinterested party.

The Post and the New Teacher Project attempt to allay concern about the city’s astronomical teacher turnover rates, which are more than twice the national average and three times that of Montgomery County. Focusing solely on the ratio of the “highly effective” and lowest performing teachers who leave the system, the editorial ignored the 21 percent turnover rate for the 70 percent of teachers who are “effective.”

Most teacher departures are voluntary, not the result of poor evaluations. Fifty percent of new teachers leave within two years; 75 percent are gone within five. The rates in charter schools are even higher. According to new research, such turnover hurts student achievement and the professional culture among educators.

New Teacher Project interviews with highly effective teachers considering leaving showed that the most prevalent reasons were school leadership, workload, the learning culture and the evaluation system — all factors resulting from the fear inducing, carrot-and-stick policies of DCPS.

The public would be better served by serious analysis of the cause of turnover and the philosophy driving DCPS reform rather than the cheerleading we’ve gotten from The Post for five years.

Mark Simon, Washington

The writer is education policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute and was president of the Montgomery County Education Association between 1985 and 2003.