Increase but no exodus: despite the stress, many teachers stay put | Education

Teachers worked longer hours. They are more stressed. And many say they have considered quitting. Still, the vast majority of teachers have remained in the profession throughout the pandemic, according to a Chalkbeat analysis of the latest data from a number of states and major school districts.

Teacher quit rates actually plummeted after COVID-19 first hit schools. Heading into this school year, the data shows departures have generally returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Taken together, the figures indicate that a feared exodus of teachers has yet to occur – although worrying signs about the health of the profession remain.

“I still worry,” said Gema Zamarro, a researcher at the University of Arkansas who has studied teacher turnover. “Teachers are stressed and exhausted. Even if they don’t leave, it could be bad.

Comprehensive national data on teacher turnover is not available. The federal government does not keep annual records, nor do some states, including California. Others, like Texas, release data with a one-year lag.

But data obtained from five states and 19 major U.S. school districts, including New York and Houston, show turnover this school year was comparable to pre-pandemic rates.

In Maryland, teacher attrition hovered between 9% and 10% from 2011 to 2019. In 2020, it fell to 7.3%, but rose to 9.3% before this school year, according to the data provided by state officials.

“Our retention rates overall are holding up,” said Maryland State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury. “It’s not some sort of broad-brush, red-alert concern.”

Elsewhere, turnover was a bit higher than usual but still close to pre-pandemic rates.

In Washington state, 9.2% of teachers left teaching in public schools in the typical year before the pandemic. In 2021, that figure has risen to 10%, according to a new analysis of state data.

Recent revenue numbers were also comparable to pre-pandemic numbers in Hawaii, Massachusetts and South Carolina. This was also true for a number of large school districts, including Dallas, Houston and Clark County, Nevada – home to Las Vegas – although Detroit and Chicago saw larger increases.

In New York, about 6% of teachers left the district in each of the three years before the pandemic. After the pandemic hit, revenue fell, then rebounded to 5.8% in 2021.

In Philadelphia schools, the teacher turnover rate was 9.3% in 2021, up from 2020 but slightly lower than it was in 2019.

“2021 – it doesn’t look any worse than before the pandemic. On the contrary, it looks like other years,” said Zamarro, who reviewed the data compiled by Chalkbeat.

Survey data shows that more teachers considered leaving the classroom during the pandemic than before it started. A poll by the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, found that more than half of its members said the pandemic made it more likely they would leave the profession sooner.

Tom Keizer, a middle school math teacher in Missoula, Montana, is one of the teachers who has considered quitting smoking. He worried about bitter local debates over masks and the rise of laws restricting the teaching of racism.

Keiser even consulted with friends who had left teaching and briefly browsed a job search website. Eventually he decided to stay.

“What would I do? How the hell could I even understand what it is? he said. “I worked 12 years trying to get better at this job.

Like Keiser, most teachers who consider leaving end up staying put, because doing so mid-career often means entering a new field and foregoing retirement benefits. A recent study, using pre-pandemic data, found that only about a third of teachers who said in a survey that they “definitely plan to leave teaching as soon as possible” actually left the following school year. .

The economy also plays a role in teacher exit. In 14 states, teacher turnover fell by one percentage point in 2020, according to a new study. “This likely reflects teachers who folded after the 2019-2020 school year amid the uncertainty of a pandemic,” wrote the researchers who studied turnover in Washington state.

Economic and pandemic conditions have changed, however, and it’s unclear what that will mean for revenue going forward.

For Kathleen Sannicks-Lerner, a veteran elementary school teacher in Philadelphia, this school year proved so trying that she took a sabbatical in January. It was difficult to ensure students kept their masks on, to fill in for colleagues when substitutes failed to show up, and to work in a school with low morale and limited resources.

“It’s just been very, very difficult to do the job that we’re required to do without the support and the tools that we need,” she said. “I was done. I’m throwing in the towel.”

Philadelphia has seen an increase in the number of teachers leaving mid-year, although they remain rare.

Even small increases in turnover could be worrying. Research has linked teacher churn to lower test scores, particularly if it happens in the middle of the school year, and very poor schools tend to have higher dropout rates. students.

Schools are also unable to handle more departures. Schools have especially struggled to find substitute teachers and bus drivers this year, and some have struggled to recruit new teachers.

Whether or not teachers decide to leave, their increased stress still matters – for them, their schools and the future of the profession. Interest in teaching among high school and college students has been waning for years, and dissatisfied current teachers could be dissuading future educators from entering the classroom in the first place.

Choudhury, of Maryland, said the state recently ran an ad campaign to try to persuade high-achieving high school students to continue teaching.

“Not many bite,” he said.

Johann Calhoun of Chalkbeat contributed reporting.

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