Churn, Churn, Churn: Thoughts on Change in Education

There’s a perception that nothing ever changes in education. After all, there’s a very good possibility that the schools in your town are more than 40 years old. However, even though the structures look the same, it’s a very different story when you look inside. If those old, familiar walls could talk, here are a few things they’d tell you.

Change can be disruptive

Consider the major initiatives that have altered the education landscape just in recent years. Common Core State Standards were adopted across the country, initiating widespread changes in teaching techniques and assessment. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was replaced by Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and along with it came the mammoth job of interpreting and applying the new rules. And the drive toward privatization has led to exponential growth of charter schools, while public districts have reorganized and consolidated, and many local schools have closed.  These are only three recent examples, but their impact is felt at every level.

Change can be beneficial

The flip side of the challenges of transformation is the opportunity it creates.  Take technology, for instance. Not too long ago, schools and teachers were struggling to adopt technology in a meaningful way. Now technology is virtually embedded in the classroom, in school administration, in assessment, and at home. The need for EdTech expertise has opened up new job opportunities. A recent EdSurge recap of EdTech hiring in 2018 illustrated this. Not surprisingly, start-ups led the charge, but it was schools, not corporations, that were following right behind.

Change has a direct effect on teachers

Teachers are on the front lines like never before. And as more is heaped on their plates, their paychecks have remained stagnant. They’re clearly feeling the inequity. Teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and North Carolina went on strike last year. Teachers in Los Angeles walked out this month (back now), and teachers in Denver may soon follow.

A record number of teachers are also leaving the profession. It’s estimated that 40% of new teachers leave within their first five years of teaching. Veteran teachers are citing low pay, burn out, and increased stress as reasons they are heading for the exits. As a result, the country is facing a significant teacher shortage.

Not all teachers are leaving of course, but even those who are staying are switching it up. It has been estimated that 42% of teachers change jobs in some capacity.

This volatility – the upheaval and the opportunity – has reinforced what we’ve been seeing at MDR. During our yearlong compilation cycle, we track every name we touch. We also chart the reasons the record was changed.

During 2017-2018 school year, we made these changes to K12 database:

  • 4 million names were added
  • 3 million names were removed
  • 3 million records had job title changes
  • 4 million total name changes

To give these numbers some context, there are about 5.8 million educators and staff in US K12 schools.  During the course of any year, the changes to our database represents typically represent 75-85% of the education universe. That gives you some idea of the scale. That’s a lot of churn in just one year.

All that is to say, don’t let outward appearances fool you. That school on the corner may look the same as it did in 1970 on the outside, but inside it’s a total makeover.