Lexington 3 and ECSD tie at 90.3%
Johnston, SC – Since launching in October 2019, the Edgefield County School District (ECSD) Teacher Forum has provided new communication opportunities for school and district employees, increased teacher engagement and led to educator-initiated policy changes. Its work correlates with the highest teacher retention rates in the past decade.
An initiative of the state’s Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement, teacher forums allow school-level Teachers of the Year to meet regularly and collaboratively develop skills, exercise leadership and explore education policy issues.
“The mission of the ECSD Teacher Forum is to unify our district-wide learning community,” shared Merriwether Elementary teacher Becca Hamilton. ”We formulate plans based on teacher feedback and surveys, allowing every teacher to have a voice. We take opinions in our buildings and bring them to the Forum to reach consensus and agreement.”
“We are able to give our feedback in positive, constructive ways and help effect change throughout our district,” added Merriwether Middle teacher Amber Dobbs.
The Forum has proposed recommendations on varied topics including grading practices, a modified district calendar, student achievement data, professional development and student technological tools. Members actively contributed to the Cognia System accreditation process. They participate in feedback sessions to inform the development of annual district-wide goals.
Dobbs shared that participating in the Forum has given her insight into what occurs at the district level.
Johnston-Edgefield-Trenton Middle teacher Michelle Daniels agrees. She said that learning about the accreditation process and how the budget works was especially helpful this school year.
The Forum is one of several district initiatives implemented since March 2019 to increase leadership opportunities for teachers. These efforts are leading to record outcomes. In the April 2022 Cognia final report, ECSD achieved the highest overall performance category, excelling in all three capacity domains—leadership, learning and resource. The report, informed by interviews with 160 individual stakeholders, asserts that, “[ECSD] demonstrates effective governance and leadership through effective oversight of system policy implementation, ethical operational and instructional practices, and attention to board and leader development and training.”
The South Carolina Department of Education annual 2021 district report cards indicate that ECSD had the highest teacher retention rate in the last decade and is a leading example in the region. Local districts had the following three-year average retention rates in 2021: Aiken 88.0%, Saluda 85.1%, McCormick 80.1%, and Lexington 3 tying Edgefield at 90.3%. ECSD started the 2021-22 school year with 100% of teacher positions filled, a rare accomplishment among South Carolina districts.
When asked about the Forum’s contributions, district leaders expressed gratitude for everything Forum members do to enact change. They shared that ECSD is currently working to expand the Forum, allowing for additional school representatives.
Strom Thurmond High teacher Amy Hardy shared that her Forum participation has inspired her to do more for her school and district.
“Teacher Forum members and district leaders have the same common goals,” she stated. “We want our students to have the best education. We want to recruit and retain talented teachers. Together, we can do that!”
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The Teacher Forum at work.