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Dysart teacher turnover significant, but steady year over year

Posted 5/23/17

By Jennifer Jimenez

Independent Newsmedia

Teacher shortages and retention are two areas of concern for most school districts in Arizona’s current education landscape. Districts have had to be …

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Dysart teacher turnover significant, but steady year over year

By Jennifer Jimenez
Independent Newsmedia

Teacher shortages and retention are two areas of concern for most school districts in Arizona’s current education landscape. Districts have had to be creative when it comes to recruiting qualified teachers.

Arizona State University conducted a new study on recruitment, retention and pay. Arizona elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation after a cost-of-living adjustment and high school teacher pay ranks 48th. The study said about 42 percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 left education within three years and 74 percent of Arizona school administrators surveyed said their campuses are experiencing a shortage of teachers.

Dysart Unified School District is currently recruiting for 104 positions. Of those, 54 are teaching positions. Those numbers are fairly consistent with this time a year ago.

“Right now, we have 184 teachers not returning next year. This is out of 1,184 total teachers in the 2016-17 school year. But we have 130 teachers in the process of being hired,” said Zach Fountain, Dysart Communications and Public Relations Director.

Ms. Buck said the District continues to see shortages in the areas of science and math, as well as the Exceptional Student Services — areas where there is high demand and reflects state and national numbers.

“The main difference from last year is in exceptional student services (special education),” Mr. Fountain said. “Additionally, these positions can also be hard to fill due to the added knowledge and training requirements.”

An aerial view of the Dysart Unified School District offices in Surprise. The rural Paradise Acres development is to the west. (Courtesy naturalpowerandenergy.com)

Mr. Fountain said the district had 51 vacant teaching positions at this time last year. For comparison’s sake, 180 teachers in 2015-16 left before the 2016-17 school year.

“The teacher shortage is a local, state and national issue,” Ms. Buck said. “There are so few college graduates coming out of the colleges of education that were a traditional recruiting area for districts. This means that our recruitment pool is changing and we are working to help mid-career professionals who are interested in transitioning into teaching.”

DUSD does a number of teacher recruitment events throughout the entire year and regularly hosts a large teacher fair in March, participates in other job fairs and recruits utilizing online job websites.

Ms. Buck said the district works with a number of higher education institutions to mentor students looking to join the teacher ranks, as well as mid-career professionals looking to switch careers.

It is relatively an easy process to hire a certified teacher looking to make a transition over to the Dysart district. Ms. Buck said if the teacher is certified and then passes background processes and interviews well, then they can be hired in just a few days.

A four-year college degree in education is required in addition to a specialization in a content area if a teacher will teach in grades 6 through 12. She also said a fingerprint clearance card is required and the passage of a professional knowledge test.

“We are currently working to understand the recent changes with SB 1042 that will ease these requirements and make certification easier,” Ms. Buck said.

It is vital to the district to focus on recruiting the best teachers because teachers have a fundamental impact on the learning of students, she said. Teaching is a career that deserves the value and respect for the enormous impact that these professionals deliver on a daily basis.

“They are truly bestowing the foundations of education that will shape lives for years to come. This is why it is important to recruit the best teachers for our students and why we are committed to supporting greater resources for the profession,” Ms. Buck said.

Peoria Unified School District spokeswoman Erin Dunsey said their district has close to 2,000 teachers and 121 openings. Right now, the district is 99 percent staffed and based on current openings for the 2017-18 school year, the district is 94 percent staffed for next year.

West Point Elementary School Teacher Nicole Perez sets up her classroom for the first time Thursday, July 28, 2016 at West Point Elementary School in Surprise.
The senior policy analyst and principal researcher of the ASU report, Dan Hunting of Morrison Institute said pay is certainly an important factor with keeping teachers in the classroom, but its not the only one.

“Teachers feel that there’s an ever-increasing workload placed upon them. They also are not feeling valued by the community including parents and the politicians,” Hunting said.

He went on to explain there have been calls to reduce spending on administration and support services, but this could backfire.

“It could increase teacher frustration and burnout, possibly offsetting any benefit from a modest pay raise,” he said. “Suppose we reduce the number of non-teaching positions at a school by eliminating the librarian and the assistant principal who tracks attendance. Someone is still going to have to put books on the shelves in the library, fill out the attendance forms, stand bus duty, etc. Those duties will likely fall to the teachers which increases their workload, taking away from the time they need to prepare lessons, grade papers and other duties.”

The study also delved into where the money comes from that funds the schools. Mr. Hunting, said district schools get about 48 percent of their revenue from local sources, primarily property taxes. About 38 percent comes from the state, which is mostly income and sales taxes, and 13 percent comes from federal sources.

Charter schools get the majority of their funding from the state because they can’t levy property taxes like district schools, so the state gives them more per student to make up the difference.