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Re: [school-discuss] Typical school / local gov't employee retention rates?


I really enjoyed reading this posting from you and enjoyed your cited sources as well. You refer to the relatively stable staff in schools as a support for making Linux deployment work. There is, however, the odd twist that while teachers are very likely (relative to, say, those in the tech sector) to stay in their jobs, those at the start of their careers (within the first 3-5 years) are overwhelmingly the most likely to leave. Study after study has shown that not only do new teachers not stay in a particular school, they also leave teaching altogether (again, relative to other career fields).

Unfortunately, this often means is that there is a climate of mistrust regarding new teachers. They are seen as "climbers" or "short timers", which then becomes a self-fulfilling prediction. While their departure is most often credited to poor support from administration and parents, there is no doubt also a sense of "no one expected me to stay" that comes into play as well.

<extrapolation src="personal experiences"> What all of this may mean for Linux adoption (and the general deployment of new desktop or system software) is that there are two kinds of teachers: the lifers and the newbies. In my experience as a regional trainer for our nine, K-12 school districts, lifers tend to resist change, having seen many educational "fads" come and go over the course of their careers. They often include technology in this list of fads and either believe that instructional technology itself is an educational trend or, at the very least, that the technology changes too much for their tastes.

Newbies, on the other hand, are the fresh-out-of-college, early adopters. They have used computer technology in college (to write papers, communicate with faculty and classmates, maybe even taking online courses) and have been explicitly taught to integrate technology into their teaching style. They are, in my experience, eager users and willing to change and adapt and often express frustration at their lifers colleagues' foot dragging. </extrapolation>

I would very much like to hear back from you and others on this list regarding practical experiences with introducing Linux or open-source desktop applications to classroom teachers. Have there been strategies that work very well (or very poorly)? What about the differences between teachers and various levels of willingness to accept the new paradigm of free, open-source software?

Aaron TD

Karsten M. Self wrote:

I realize values will vary highly, so I might preface that I'm in the
Northern California area, but....

One of the costs associated with Linux tools is training.  Which if you
think about it, is really an investment in staff.  Which then amortizes
in a manner strongly dependent on employee retention.

While I've worked in tech environments with 20%, 50%, or even 200%
(yes!) turnover, I suspect that most educational settings have a far
more stable workforce.  Say, 5-10% a year, and likely the lower end (one
reference cites 6% for Tennessee[1].

Which means that if you have to engage in retraining, ten years down the
road, you've still got 50% of the staff around[2].

Contrast with PC hardware, assuming a service lifetime of five years
(probably typical for educational environments).  If you're rotating out
HW annually, that's a 20% rate of age-out on your investment.  Given the
proprietary industry's typical "HW/SW" upgrade lock, and product
lifecycles of 3-4 years, that also means you're probably looking at
maintaining and supporting at least two major versions (and likely 3-4)
on your network.

Message: training costs are an enduring investment in staff. Software and hardware investments age out far more rapidly, particularly in the public sector.



1.  "Tennessee, for example, annual teacher turnover averages about 6
   percent"  http://www.nga.org/cda/files/010902NEWTEACH.pdf

   Another source suggests 10-15%

2.  And while it's not likely safe to assume that teachers never forget,
   it *is* pretty likely that with training plus constant use, they're
   pretty familiar with the system(s).

"Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem."

William of Ockham (ca. 1285-1349)