The Learning Curve: What the Latest School Data Doesn’t Tell Us About Teachers

After a brief Covid-era hiatus, the Voice of San Diego Parent’s Guide for San Diego Schools is back, baby! The guide is packed with many of the same data qualities, school guidance, and perspectives that readers trust and have come to expect. But there is one small but noticeable change. The state has stopped reporting teachers’ average number of years of teaching. Exactly why this decision was made is unclear, as officials at the California Department of Education have not responded to my emailed questions.

The number of average teaching years has been replaced by the much more blunt and less helpful metric “percentage of experienced teachers”. This metric shows the percentage of teachers at a given school who have at least two years of teaching experience. While it’s not nothing, it’s far from the snapshot that was the average number of years of teaching.

Let me give you an example. If all teachers in a school have only two years of teaching experience, that school would be listed as having 100 percent of its teachers “experienced.” Based on data from our most recent school guide, when the state provided average years of instructional data, an average two-year instructional experience at a school is extremely low — about 12 years less than the overall county average. So even if 100 percent of a school’s teachers are “experienced,” that doesn’t mean the school’s average teaching time is longer than other schools, some of which have lower percentages of “experienced” teachers.

The dates also have a far smaller reach than the previous dates. According to data collected for this year’s Schools Guide, the school with the lowest percentage of experienced teachers is Spencer Valley Elementary, where 57 percent of teachers met the bar to be classified as “experienced.” But Spencer Valley is a significant outlier. Only one other school is in the 60 percent range. Most schools are in the 90 to 100 percent range.

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Meanwhile, based on the previous metric, schools had between 2.5 and 25 years of average teacher experience. This lack of variability takes away some of the nuance of an informative statistic.

There is also another problem. This year more than 170 schools lacked data on the percentage of experienced teachers. Our previous guide was missing teacher experience data for fewer than 50 schools.

During the high-tech teachers’ union’s struggle for a contract, many complained that many teachers were being fired or terminated and that campuses suffered from a lack of teacher experience. Looking at the data on average years of teaching experience, it was clear that high tech high schools actually had some of the least experienced teachers of any school in San Diego. Of the more than 600 schools across the county with an average of years of teaching experience, 10 of the 13 schools with the least experienced teachers were High Tech High Campus. This year, only two of the 16 High Tech High campuses report the percentage of experienced teachers in their schools.

Contents That is Bouncing around my mind palace

  • Canyon Springs Church, which holds its services at a San Diego Unified Middle School, recently hosted a speaker who believes “being gay is incompatible with being Christian,” reports Kristen Taketa of the Union-Tribune. Now over 600 people have signed a petition asking the district to end its lease with the church. The problem is that it might be against the law.
  • San Diego State University is among California colleges still using remote monitoring services that include room scans for some tests, even after a court ruled it was unconstitutional.
  • Curious how much your local school district superintendent gets paid? The Union-Tribune has you covered. The list ends at almost half a million dollars when you include the benefits.
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what we write

  • If you’re a parent or just interested in local schools, I highly recommend downloading a free copy or purchasing a physical copy from your local library or through one of our community partners. In it, you’ll find data compiled on most of the area’s public schools, as well as articles on everything from the dismal post-pandemic test results, choosing a school for your child, changes to the state’s transitional kindergarten program, and some common charters to school lottery priorities as well as a cheat sheet with school lingo and even a guide on how to use the guide. We hope you get as much out of this year’s guide as we put into it, but don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to see anything added in the future.
  • Grossmont Union High School District fired a teacher for inappropriately touching a student. A court and a state commission sided with the district. Another state commission recommended revoking his certification. Nonetheless, he ended up back in a classroom. Now he has been suspended and a further preliminary investigation has been initiated.
  • After a nearly six-week strike, student workers at the University of California have reaped big gains on their latest contract. However, some believe an extra $2,500 going to some workers at three locations could spark disputes in future statewide negotiations.
  • Former Senator Bill Craven played an integral role in the founding of CSU San Marcos. But allegations that he made racist remarks while he was alive have led to his name being removed from a building on campus. While some have praised the decision to remove his name, it has spurred the resignation of at least four members of the 40-member University Council of San Marcos, an advisory group made up of community members.
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