White countered data that indicates increase in number of teachers retiring

White: Overall teacher attrition has not changed

“Any concern that teacher quality has been diminished in our state by the reforms is erroneous.” john White,  state superintendent of schools

Teachers are not leaving the classroom in any greater numbers than before Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education system revamp, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday.

And, White said, “the teachers who are leaving are more likely to be ineffective.”

White released statistics in response to Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana data that showed a 25 percent increase in retirements since Jindal-pushed through changes in how teachers are evaluated.

White said the numbers released by Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana, called TRSL, look at only a slice of the picture: those who have the years in to retire. He said more retirements are based on financial considerations than changes in the classroom.

“Louisiana is actually in a good position in the number of teachers in the workforce,” White said during a telephone conference call with reporters.

White said the overall teacher work force attrition rate has remained at or close to 12 percent for the last three years.

“The overall rate of teacher attrition has not changed ,” he said.

TRSL public information officer Lisa Honore issued a statement late Monday that stated, in part, that the data it issued earlier in the month does not contradict the Department of Education, or DOE, report.

“The attrition data from DOE include all types of departures — retirement and non-retirement related,” according to TRSL. The TRSL data does show an increase in retirements over the last three fiscal years, the statement read. The pension system includes teachers, administrator and some other school employees.

Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said White attempted to deflect what’s going on in the classroom.

“A stable attrition rate only means that enough teachers are entering our classrooms to replace those who leave,” Monaghan said. “Attrition does not address the absolute fact that we are losing experienced veteran teachers at a much faster rate than before. More importantly, it completely ignores that teacher morale in Louisiana and nationally is at an all-time low.”

According to Department of Education statistics, new teacher certification rates have increased slightly, from 3,005 new licenses issued in 2008-09 to 3,136 in 2010-11. The number is not available for the more recent 2011-12 fiscal year, the department said.

Among teachers measured through the “value-added” statistical process over the past three years, those who remained in the workforce the following school year were more likely to be “highly effective” than those who left, 19 percent to 16 percent, respectively, White said.

In addition, those teacher leaving the workforce were more likely to be “ineffective” than were those who stayed, 12 percent to 8 percent, respectively, he said.

“Any concern that teacher quality has been diminished in our state by the reforms is erroneous,” White said.

White said shortages do remain in certain areas such as math and sciences, some schools and some school districts such as those in high poverty and rural areas.

The DOE report concluded that over the past three years, teachers leaving the classroom to move into administrative positions were more likely to be among the state’s “highly effective” teachers than those leaving education, 27 percent to 16 percent.

White countered the TRSL data and comments made by school superintendents who have been seeing increases in retirements.

The TRSL report showed the number of retirements from public kindergarten through 12th-grade schools have hovered around 2,500 in recent years: 2,598 for the 2011 fiscal year; 2,512 during the previous fiscal year. But for the 2012 fiscal year, the number jumped by 697 to 3,295, an increase of 26.8 percent and the number are continuing at the same pace.

Parish school superintendents said teachers are telling them they cannot deal with the pressure and instability and all the changes going on with the new law changes.

“A lot of them are experienced teachers who have been with their systems for a while who are retiring because of the uncertainty of the (teacher) evaluation system,” Michael Faulk, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said in early January.