DC Charter Schools Offer Perks to Combat Burnout and Teacher Turnover

DC charter schools are desperate to avoid teacher burnout, and a record number of departures from the profession are offering perks like yoga classes, spin classes, and mindfulness exercises.

Publicly funded private schools have turned to programs such as Stride K12 and Spark by Gabby to provide perks and perks commonly seen in large tech companies to help teachers deal with personal and professional stress in the midst of life. the coronavirus pandemic.

A DC State Board of Education survey in March found that DC teachers have a higher “intention to quit” during the pandemic, making them even more likely to quit than in previous years.

“Teacher burnout during this difficult time is real in DC and across the country,” said Kevin P. Chavous, a former DC Council member who is now president of online education company Stride K12. “We all need to find creative ways to meet teachers where they are emotionally located in order to keep them motivated. “

Mr. Chavous said his company’s program encourages teachers to step away from their screens to participate in offline “passion projects” like community service, yoga, painting and marathons. He said local teachers have felt pushed to their limits by online and hybrid education – and they’ve yearned for human contact again since outbreaks of the omicron variant of the coronavirus forced schools to return to virtual learning.

“The key is to directly involve teachers during this time, listen to them and offer them support that extends beyond the classroom,” he said.

Stride, the nation’s largest online education provider, works with more than 1,000 US school districts and nonprofit chartered boards to provide blended online and classroom instruction. He currently runs a blended learning program for Friendship Public Charter School in Northwest Washington.

Meanwhile, 11 schools in the Center City Public Charter, Capital City Public Charter, Digital Pioneers Academy, and KIPP DC’s New Teacher Cohort networks have purchased institutional subscriptions to Spark by Gabby, a virtual wellness program that costs around $ 2,000. by school.

“We offer a space entirely [teachers] with an opportunity to reset, grow stronger and take responsibility internally, ”said Gabby Lubin, a former preschool teacher who founded the program.

The 11 schools participating in the Spark by Gabby live broadcast and recorded video workouts: Petworth, Brightwood, Shaw, Capitol Hill and Trinidad (Center City); Congress Heights and Lower School (Capital City); Higher and lower schools (Academy of digital pioneers); and the cohort of new teachers from the graduate school and KIPP DC on several campuses.

Several schools are also running informal Apple Watch contests, a monthly day for teachers to get home early, Sweetgreen stations on campus that allow employees to order healthy salads with no delivery charges, and food trucks.

DC Public Schools recently offered an Educator Welfare Technical Assistance grant to public and charter schools that applied by the Oct. 29 deadline.

The $ 500,000 grant tackles ‘root causes of educator stress’ during the pandemic through a four-tier wellness program that requires teachers to build trusting relationships with school leaders, to cope with difficult professional expectations, to exercise autonomy in school-level decisions and to develop emotional learning skills “which” better manage stress and well-being “.

The two-year grant program, which interviews teachers to identify the wellness needs of each participating school, began on November 15 and is scheduled to end on September 30, 2023.

At its monthly meeting on December 15, the DC State Board of Education hosted a panel discussion by educators and health experts to “better explain the dimensions of teacher well-being issues in the district, identify the best practices used in schools and how the state board can support and expand these practices to promote better well-being and retention of educators.

The board reported in March 2020 that the 25% pre-pandemic turnover rate for teachers in the district was above the national average of 16% between the 2014-15 and 2018-19 school years.

The board has yet to say how many teachers resigned in 2019-20.

But the survey of council teachers in March noted that “teachers in the district were also noted as having a higher ‘intention to quit'” during the pandemic. On a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 indicating “strongly agree”, the survey found that DC teachers had an average response of 6.73 to the statement “I find teaching stressful” .

In the 2018-19 school year, the DC public school teacher turnover rate was 21% and the public charter school rate was 26%.

Nationally, a survey by Rand Corp. revealed that 25% of U.S. teachers said they would likely quit after the 2020-21 school year.

New teachers are particularly vulnerable: A landmark 2018 study by Richard Ingersoll at the University of Pennsylvania found that 44% of all teachers left the profession within the first five years of their careers even before the pandemic.

At the same time, a study by the Brookings Institution found that while more teachers wish to leave the profession, they stay in the classroom for now until the economy improves, leaving it open. the possibility that schools can retain them.

Emily Allen, a literacy worker at KIPP DC, said she prefers more training-oriented programs for her mood and stress management: this pandemic. “

Jordan Daugherty, a dance instructor at Center City’s Petworth campus, praised the “whole body perspective” of virtual workouts.

“As a dancer, I had tried virtual fitness classes throughout the pandemic, but I missed the community and the integrated competition of in-person classes,” she said.

Kelly Sloan, educational policy researcher for the Centennial Institute think tank at Colorado Christian University, said the more creative approach tends to reduce stress better than the traditional public school approach to ongoing discussions. employment of teachers funded by grants.

“I think this shows that the benefits of charter schools and other avenues of school choice extend beyond students to include teachers as well,” Sloan said. “It’s hard to see something so innovative and potentially useful coming out of the stilted environment of the public system. “

About Mark A. Tomlin

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