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VCU study explores local teachers’ morale, makes recommendations to improve it

“Most teachers in our study felt overloaded by the number of students, number of course preparations, paperwork, and the constant requirements of new initiatives,” the report concluded in part.

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As teachers across the country feel the burden of an increased workload and report record low levels of morale, a new study by a partnership of Richmond-area school districts and the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University investigated how local teachers feel about their work and makes a number of policy recommendations aimed at boosting teachers’ job satisfaction and morale.

The study, “Understanding Teacher Morale,” was conducted by the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, a research alliance between VCU and the school divisions of the counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico and Powhatan and the cities of Richmond and Colonial Heights.

It comes as national research shows that teacher job satisfaction is at its lowest level in 25 years, with more than half of teachers reporting that they are “under great stress several days a week” — an increase of 15 percent since the mid-1980s.

“In the region, and across the country, we are facing challenges related to teacher turnover and shortages,” said Jesse Senechal, Ph.D., interim director of MERC and an assistant professor in the School of Education. “Research has shown that instability in the teacher workforce has profound negative effects on student achievement and school success. It is also worth noting that this problem is experienced with more frequency and greater intensity in the most challenged schools, effectively contributing to an achievement gap. It’s exciting that regional school leaders have supported an effort to raise awareness and build understanding about this issue, and develop solutions for addressing it.”

As part of the study, a team of VCU faculty and students, along with school division personnel representing both central office and school-level perspectives, conducted a series of observations and interviews with 44 teachers across three Richmond-area middle schools.

The researchers sought to answer three key questions:

  • How do teachers experience job satisfaction and morale?
  • What are the dynamics between a teacher’s job-related ideal and the professional culture of the school that support or hinder the experience of job satisfaction and morale?
  • How do differences between schools related to policy context and social context affect the dynamics of job satisfaction and morale?

The findings highlight the influence of federal, state and division-level policy on teachers’ experience of work and the importance of leadership in creating school cultures in which teachers can find job satisfaction and build high morale.

The study makes a number of recommendations to improve teacher morale, including that school districts review current and new policies that impact teacher work, rethink the models of accountability and the role of data, address the issue of teacher compensation, and communicate policy rationale with clarity, consistency and transparency.

It also recommended that school districts address the issue of teachers’ massive workload.

“One of the ideas expressed by study participants was the desire for more time to ‘just teach,’” the researchers wrote. “Most teachers in our study felt overloaded by the number of students, number of course preparations, paperwork, and the constant requirements of new initiatives. Overload has a number of negative effects, including compromising the quality of teaching, increasing stress, and upsetting work-life balance. Careful consideration should be given to anything that adds to a teacher’s workload.”

The report also recommended that school districts promote school and division cultures that support teacher professionalism and leadership. It suggests creating structures to promote professional growth, institutionalizing opportunities for teacher voice and leadership at both the school and division level, and greater professional development support of principals.

You can read the full report online here.

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RPS Summer Fest on Saturday

Join RPS students, parents, teachers, and administrators to learn more about the fall reopening plans and how to enroll your preschool to 12th-grade students.

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This Saturday, July 31 from 11 am to 3 pm, Richmond Public Schools’  will host its Summer Fest event at Broad Rock Sports Complex (4825 Old Warwick Road).  Join RPS students, parents, teachers, and administrators to learn more about the fall reopening plans and how to enroll your preschool to 12th grade students.  Summer Fest will also be full of family fun, food, prizes, and more.  Learn more about the event here.

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Education

Ridge Elementary’s Erin Rettig named Virginia’s 2021 Elementary School Counselor of the Year

Rettig was surprised by Henrico County Public Schools leaders and members of her family at an April 30 announcement at Ridge. She will be recognized at the Virginia School Counselor Association’s annual conference in October.

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The Virginia School Counselor Association has named Erin Rettig, a school counselor at Ridge Elementary School, its Elementary School Counselor of the Year. Rettig was surprised by Henrico County Public Schools leaders and members of her family at an April 30 announcement at Ridge. She will be recognized at the Virginia School Counselor Association’s annual conference in October.

This is the second straight year the award has been presented to an HCPS school counselor. Last year Lila Hiltz of Donahoe Elementary School won the statewide honor.

“I love anything that brings attention to Ridge,” said Rettig. “It’s a very special school. It has a great school climate, it’s very inclusive. We have students from all different backgrounds and staff from different backgrounds … I love being at a school where all are welcome.

“I was very surprised … I really didn’t think about the nomination after it was submitted. I have always had the mentality that it’s students over everything — what’s best for them is the priority. So I really wasn’t doing anything different or trying to earn an award. I’m very thankful that they honored me and it really affirms the important work I’m doing at Ridge Elementary.”

Originally from Virginia Beach, Rettig joined the staff at Ridge in 2004 after earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from James Madison University and a master’s degree in school counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2020, she earned certification in school counseling from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the profession’s highest mark of accomplishment.

The annual awards for elementary and secondary school counselor of the year are based on implementation of a comprehensive school counseling program and the American School Counselor Association’s guiding national model.

In naming her the commonwealth’s elementary school winner, the Virginia School Counseling Association said, “Your application and letters of recommendation clearly showed that you not only support the national standards for school counseling within [your school division], but also advocate for the profession throughout your community. Your dedication to your students and increasing efforts at collaboration with fellow educators are admired and appreciated!”

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Education

PHOTOS: University of Richmond celebrates in-person graduations

The University of Richmond awarded more than 1,100 degrees during a series of in-person, school-specific ceremonies May 7th through 9th.

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The University of Richmond awarded more than 1,100 degrees during a series of in-person, school-specific ceremonies May 7th through 9th.

The University awarded the following degrees:

  • 783 undergraduate bachelor’s degrees from the School of Arts & Sciences, Robins School of Business, and Jepson School of Leadership Studies,
  • 32 bachelor’s degrees and 95 master’s degrees, through the School of Professional & Continuing Studies,
  • 25 MBA degrees through the Robins School of Business,
  • and 137 juris doctor degrees from the Richmond School of Law.

The University of Richmond provided an in-person, residential educational opportunity for the entire 2020-21 academic year. Most students completed their classes in person with about 300 studying remotely.

From Chicago to Amsterdam and San Francisco to London, graduating seniors are heading to jobs and graduate schools around the world. The class of 2021 has secured jobs at highly-coveted companies and organizations, including Tesla, Teach for America, and the U.S. State Department. Students are continuing their education at some of the world’s premiere graduate institutions, including Yale, Harvard, and Oxford.

By the Numbers

  • The Class of 2021 includes 63 international students who represent 24 countries.
  • More than 230 students in the School of Arts & Sciences conducted undergraduate research in the arts, social sciences, humanities, and sciences.
  • The Robins School of Business’ Student Managed Investment Fund’s growth and value fund grew to a combined value of more than $1M this year, the first time the fund has hit this milestone since it was established in 1993. This year was also the first that Robins School students will graduate from UR with a business analytics concentration.
  • 22% of law school graduates earned the Carrico Center Pro Bono Certificate for completing 120 hours of service throughout their three years, collectively performing more than 6,000 hours of service.
  • The 81 members of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies Class of 2021 logged about 26,000 hours fulfilling their course service-learning requirements and Jepson internships. Three seniors were also named Jepson Scholars and awarded full scholarships to pursue one-year master’s programs at the University of Oxford.
  • For their capstone projects, Master of Nonprofit Studies students in the School of Professional & Continuing Studies conducted more than 2,800 hours of original research, engaging a wide range of nonprofit and civil society stakeholders in the Richmond area, throughout the U.S., and in Afghanistan.
  • Even with fewer study abroad experiences available in 2020 and 2021 due to travel limitations related to the pandemic, 61.7% (483 students) from the class of 2021 completed study abroad, research, and internship programs around the world with university support. Some of these experiences were virtual.
  • According to the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, 27 graduating Bonner Scholars logged 23,457 hours of service throughout their four years.

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