The District’s newest head of public schools responded to criticism the system received amid reports of a high number of mid-year teacher resignations at Ballou Senior High School, saying the crisis at the Southeast school has been blown out of proportion.
“You asked about Ballou, but it needs to be put in context,” said DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson Wednesday, June 14 at his headquarters. “We retain 92 percent of our effective and highly effective teachers. Between our entire teaching staff, about 80-85 percent of them are in those categories.
“We don’t have a challenge with the District as a whole retaining teachers,” he said. “We actually have talented teachers throughout the District and we have high retention. The next group of teachers are our developing teachers and our teachers have three years to move up. Eighty percent of those teachers move up to effective and highly effective.”
Wilson said DCPS’s numbers are actually very high for an urban school district.
“In fact, we’ve been recognized for our work,” he said. “That being the case, it’s also true that we have some places where we are not where we want to be.”
Wilson said that the situation at Ballou speaks to a few things, including the school having more money than it had students this year.
“They were given more money than they had students this year, so the idea was that they were going to have more kids,” he said. “They are up in enrollment overall, but it’s less than what we thought it was going to be this year.”
He asserted that the numbers at Ballou aren’t telling the entire story.
“I have seen the data for every one of the vacancies, some of which were positions where the person never even started,” he said. “And they are being counted in that number and that doesn’t make sense. They never lost those teachers, because they were never there.”
Wilson said the rest of exiting teachers told school officials that there wasn’t anything Ballou or the District could have done differently.
“They tell us that they are moving out of the region or their spouses have gotten promotions,” he said. “We as a District can better support Ballou by putting a lot of rigor in our hiring process to make sure that if people are likely to not make it that that is done in our interview process.
“It should be hard to get into a school like Ballou because our students there depend upon people coming back and staying the entire year,” Wilson said.
The chancellor said they also have to ensure that once teachers are hired, they spend enough time with them before the school year starts — and stay in contact with them throughout the year.
Wilson insists that the reports of mid-year resignations plaguing Ballou is not unique to the District.
“As a system there are mid-year resignations as there are in every school district. This is not new or unique to us,” he said. “You go to every urban school district in this country you’re going to find this story. We have to make sure and quickly prepare our students so they are not in anyway impacted.
“It is an important issue,” Wilson said. “It’s one of the reasons why I got in education to make sure there weren’t disparities based on geography in terms of their education experience.”