How experienced are the teachers at your neighborhood school? Check out this map we put together of the average teaching experience in San Diego Unified and its charter schools last year, the most recent year available from the state. Here’s how to read it:

Red = Less than five years of teaching experience
Orange = Between five and 10 years
Yellow = Between 10 and 15 years
Green = Between 15 and 20 years
Blue = More than 20 years

Zoom in, because there are lots of schools on the map and they clump together from far away. Also, keep in mind that because this data is a year old, things may have changed at your neighborhood school, especially if a lot of senior teachers took the golden handshake — a bonus meant to encourage the most experienced and most expensive teachers to leave.

Why does teacher experience matter? Having lots of less-experienced teachers can put students at a disadvantage. Studies that use test scores to track teacher performance also show a big learning curve in the first few years — and even if you aren’t a big fan of using test scores to judge how well a teacher is doing, just about any teacher can tell you their first few years were tough.

Big differences in teacher experience from school to school can also skew budgets because more experienced teachers earn more than less experienced ones. In San Diego Unified, schools don’t directly get that money, but some experts see it as inequitable because experienced teachers are paid more.

So if a school has lots of experienced teachers, San Diego Unified invests more money in them than it does at a school with lots of newer teachers, even if the school itself never sees the difference in its budget. That was one budget factor that wasn’t a part of our school funding maps — and many of you rightly pointed that out.

I’d like to get your observations about this map. One thing that pops out at me are how many of the schools with relatively inexperienced staff are charter schools.

Another is that while some neighborhoods seem to have lots more schools with inexperienced teachers than other neighborhoods — compare Mira Mesa to Logan — outliers are all over the city. That suggests that while neighborhood poverty has an impact, individual school conditions also play a role. Send me your thoughts on what you see at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org, or post them on the blog.

These data are readily available from the California Department of Education. You can comb through all the tables in their original form here.

— EMILY ALPERT

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