Teacher Shortages – a Tale of Three Virginia Beach Elementary Schools

by James C. Sherlock

I offer for your consideration a tale of three Virginia Beach elementary schools and their teacher shortages.

The data provided are from the school quality databases of the Virginia Department of Education and from the jobs database of the City of Virginia Beach Schools accessed this morning.

All three of the elementary schools I chose for this sample were near where I lived and worked when I was on active duty in the Navy.

John B. Dye Elementary is an extremely high performing school, Trantwood Elementary a high performing school, and Birdneck Elementary a low performing school in the state SOL assessments.

The data in this very small sample show gaping differences in currently open teaching and counselor positions among those three schools. They are not only in the same school division, but within the same zip code.

John B. Dye and Birdneck are 18 minutes apart by car with Trantwood in between. Each is within easy commute distance for the same set of available teachers and counselors. Because of the positive effects of Navy spouses, this area tends to have no shortage of teachers.

The relative poverty levels of the student bodies differ, but not as greatly as among many other state public schools, again because of the effects of the Navy on the economy of Virginia Beach in general and the 23451 zip code in particular.

Chronic absenteeism differences reflecting the learning environments in each school, on the other hand, are profound.

There is more to school climate than data will show, but I think readers will find the information thought provoking.

bottom line: Teachers and counselors appear to have bailed on Birdneck Elementary, but not on John B. Dye or Trantwood.

I offer a sampling of the data offered in the state school quality databases. Readers can access the full quality data for each school at the links provided.

Birdneck Elementary School – Poor performing on SOLs

Near Oceana Naval Air Station

Students 2020-21 — 611

RTD Teachers — 51.2
RTD Teachers sought — 10

FTE Counselors — no data
FTE Counselors sought — 0.9

Special Education Teachers — 12
Special Education Teachers sought — 4th

Chronic Absenteeism 2018-19 — 13.9%
Chronic Absenteeism 2020-21 — 35.2%

Free and Reduced Meal Eligible Students: 2020-2021 — 32.5%

John B. Dye Elementary School –– Extremely High Performing on SOLs

On Broad Bay Near Cox High School

Students 2020-21 — 728

RTD Teachers — 43.6
RTD Teachers sought — 0

FTE Counselors — no data
FTE Counselors sought — 0.2

Special Education Teachers — 7th
Special Education Teachers sought — 0

Chronic Absenteeism 2018-19 — 5.5%
Chronic Absenteeism 2020-21 — 3.5%

Free and Reduced Meal Eligible Students: 2020-2021 — 18.1%

Trantwood Elementary — High performing on SOLs

On Great Neck Peninsula

Students 2020-21 — 446

RTD Teachers — 34.7
RTD Teachers sought — 1

FTE Counselors — no data
FTE Counselors sought — 0

Special Education Teachers—6th
Special Education Teachers sought — 0

Chronic Absenteeism 2018-19 — 6.3%
Chronic Absenteeism 2020-21 — 3.5%

Free and Reduced Meal Eligible Students: 2020-2021 — 21.7%

Discussion: This is not a nearly large enough sample size to generalize about staffing shortages in Virginia schools. Some entire school divisions in other parts of the state have broader school staffing issues compared to Virginia Beach.

But if nothing else, this survey of three elementary schools in Virginia Beach shows that when we discuss teacher shortages, many can be very localized.

And averaging teacher shortages for a large school division and then attempting to assess the effects of shortages on the “average” school is folly.

Same goes for chronic absenteeism in the “average” school, or nearly anything else.

There is no such thing as the average school.

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