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Teacher Turnover Disproportionately Affects Low-Income, Minority Students In Duval

Outside of the Duval County Public Schools building
Sky Lebron
Outside of the Duval County Public Schools building

New research from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund shows that Duval County is doing well to retain teachers overall, but turnover is disproportionately affecting low-income students and students of color.

The study, which analyzed three years of data from Duval County Public Schools, found that the district-wide retention rate is at about 84% year-to-year. The retention rate in the average school is 75% year-to-year. That discrepancy is largely driven by transfers within the district.

It costs the district about $11,000 to train and hire replacements for teachers who permanently leave Duval County. During the 2018 - 2019 school year, the cost of all teacher turnover was about $12 million, which is nearly 2% of the district's instruction budget for that year.

The research also found that schools serving large numbers of low-income students are more likely to experience high teacher turnover. Every 10% increase in students on free and reduced lunch correlated to a 3% reduction in teacher retention at that school.

Principal turnover appears to be the biggest contributing factor for teacher turnover, and schools serving low-income students are more likely to have principle changes. A principle change leads to a 5.6% decrease in teacher retention, according to the study.

“JPEF believes in the power of teachers to make a positive impact on students,” said Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF), a nonprofit educational research center. “I hope this research inspires our community to rally around teachers in our high-poverty school communities. I believe we all have a role to play, and JPEF is committed to helping convene our community in a connected, coordinated plan of action.”

The study also found that schools with lower grades tend to have teachers with less experience and that Duval County’s teacher workforce is significantly less diverse than its student body. The student body is about 45% Black while only 29% of the county’s teachers are Black. Black male teachers make up less than 6% of the district’s workforce.

Studies have shown that representation and cultural responsiveness in teaching has a significant impact on student achievement. Low-income Black boys have been found to be 39% more likely to graduate high school if they have at least one teacher who looks like them in elementary school.

“You will never be disappointed in the impact you can make as a teacher,” said Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “I want to challenge all people considering their career, particularly men of color, to consider teaching. We will support you, and I promise you a life’s work of tremendous value and contribution.“

JPEF is partnering with Duval County Public Schools to develop strategies to better recruit and retain teachers of color, especially Black men, and has contracted with SchermCo, a social impact implementation firm that has already developed teacher diversity strategies in other Southern states.

Greene said diversity should be emphasized at all of the county’s schools, not just the ones that have large populations of students of color.

“Yes, we want the students on the Northside to see teachers like themselves.” But, she said, “We need students on the Southside to see, also, African American males or African American teachers that will dispel a lot of the stereotypes they may have learned.”

As part of the process of developing local strategies, JPEF will seek public input from local colleges and universities, nonprofit partners like Teach for America, principals, district leadership, charter school representatives and others.

“We have tremendous unmet need related to diversifying the teaching workforce for our community,” said Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Dean of the College of Education & Human Services at the University of North Florida. “We have been committed to changing this at UNF, but this is not an easy task. Diversification will take a coordinated systems approach, which we have to figure out together.”

Prospective teachers are being encouraged to email to find out more about career opportunities with Duval County Public Schools. High school students who are interested in pursuing a teaching career can apply for the University of North Florida’s Urban Education Scholars program.

Thanks to a new law and funding, new teacher annual salaries in Duval County start at $45,891, which is higher than they’ve ever been.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.