Newly hired teachers at struggling NC schools are less effective

Struggling schools hire less-effective teachers with experience than do other schools, according to an analysis the State Board of Education discussed this week.

The report from Thomas Tomberlin, director of district human resources with the state Department of Public Instruction, measured teacher effectiveness by using student growth on test scores.

It found that 28 percent of new hires at low-performing schools in 2014-15 had the lowest rating — “does not meet expected growth” — compared with 19 percent of new hires at other schools.

Ten percent of new hires at struggling schools had the top rating — exceeding expected growth — while 20 percent of new hires at other schools did.

Tomberlin’s report comes as the legislature is putting more pressure on struggling schools to improve. Low-performing schools are those that have D or F grades and do not exceed expected growth. Under a new law, those schools must notify parents and write plans for improvement.

“If this trend continues, the schools have little chance of emerging from low-performing status,” Tomberlin said.

His analysis found that there’s no real difference in teacher attrition or in the percentages of less-experienced teachers between low-performing and other schools.

The difference is in the teachers whom schools hire to replace those who leave, he said.

Rodney Shotwell, superintendent of Rockingham County schools and an adviser to the board, called the report “disheartening.”

“Those kids need the best teachers,” he said.

The state board and local districts for years have talked about ways that struggling schools can hire and keep the best teachers. Some districts have experimented with supplemental pay for teachers.

Keith Poston, president of the Public School Forum, an education think tank in Raleigh, said a multi-pronged strategy that includes higher pay, targeted scholarships and other factors may be needed to attract more top teachers to low-performing schools.

“There’s not one single answer,” he said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner