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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Keeping Irreplaceables in D.C. Public Schools

Lessons in Smart Teacher Retention

November 8, 2012

D.C. Public Schools takes a dramatically different approach to teacher retention.

The Irreplaceables highlighted the real retention crisis in America’s urban schools: a failure to keep highly effective teachers or usher unsuccessful ones out. TNTP's new case study, Keeping Irreplaceables in D.C. Public Schools, provides a deeper look at retention strategies discussed in The Irreplaceables and how they're playing out in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). The paper explains how DCPS has moved toward smarter teacher retention, mainly by raising expectations and removing consistently low-performing teachers, and details opportunities to make even more progress. 

Key findings:

  • Performance-based compensation is helping DCPS keep more top teachers.
  • Many DCPS principals do not appear to be prioritizing top teacher retention.
  • Many DCPS principals are struggling to create cultures and working conditions that motivate top teachers to stay.
  • Irreplaceables appear less likely to teach in schools that need them most. 

The report recommends that DCPS continue its current policy reforms—especially its higher expectations for teachers—while monitoring the distribution of top teachers across the district and doing more to help school leaders retain their best teachers.