How to Combat Churn When Implementing NGSS

Churn is a challenge facing many schools.Every year, teachers move. Sometimes they move within their schools to teach a different grade or subject matter, and sometimes they change schools entirely.

Called churn, this is a very real issue in public schools. This is common with both administrators and teachers, and it affects both the speed of implementation and student achievement levels.

The issue with churn is tough. To see 10- to 20-percent churn is not uncommon. Anecdotally, we have seen charter schools and urban schools with higher churn than non-charter and non-urban schools. You often see churn in rural communities as well, because people are traveling a great distance, and finding qualified educators can be a challenge.

So if you've got a lot of turnover, what is a realistic implementation plan and what should the students be expected to achieve?

The direct answer to the question is that you need good resources, designed for NGSS. The resources need to ensure that every teacher can operate well independently, assuming they are willing to open the resources they have and try.

Resources Can Help with Churn

The reason that resources can be so effective at countering the negative effects of churn is that when designed appropriately, they provide a consistent system of instruction that is in place regardless of who is teaching.

This system of instruction needs to shift teachers away from a traditional way of teaching toward a next generation approach, where the students are in the role of scientist, living out the cycle of innovation on an everyday basis in order to encounter and use the content and develop the skills. The teacher, on the other hand, takes a skillful leader's role of coaching students through this process over time so that it becomes dynamic.

Here at KnowAtom, we support this shift by giving teachers every hands-on material and every access to coaching. The only thing we don't do is actually show up in the classroom to teach the class, to meet student needs, and to coach them through the learning material every month, moment by moment. Other than that, teachers receive the support they need to step into a district and begin teaching science with confidence.

It’s important to note that new teachers can often be among the most successful in a churn scenario because they don't have to unlearn bad habits. That’s a benefit because when teachers have a pre-existing paradigm, perspective, and way of doing things, it can be hard—although not impossible—to give up old habits.

Even with churn of administrators and teachers, we still see anywhere from 10- to 25-point gains in the first year, typically sustained in double digits for two to three years.

That’s not to say there isn’t still a lot of struggling along the way, or that churn doesn’t have an impact, because of course, it does. How well a community responds to these struggles will determine how easily successful implementation will occur. Generally speaking, the rate of change of student scores is directly proportional to the capacity of the district to adapt.

Having a successful implementation plan for the Next Generation Science Standards can also help with this because it provides continuity across buildings. There are a variety of ways to ensure successful implementation. Check out our "7 Principles of Effective NGSS Implementation" blog post to learn more.