Remember the collective gnashing of teeth from liberal advocacy groups a few months back bemoaning the mass exodus of teachers this year from North Carolina’s public schools? Turns out that it wasn’t true.
The Department of Public Instruction‘s annual report on teachers leaving the profession (aptly entitled The Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession) instead showed that there was actually a decrease in the statewide turnover rate during the 2013-14 school year. That’s right — there are actually fewer teachers leaving their jobs than last year. And the reasons might surprise you.
Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation, has the skinny:
DPI reports slight dip in statewide teacher turnover rate
The Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession is a report published by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) every fall. It is designed to document general trends in teacher turnover over time, but it does not identify specific factors that led to teachers’ departures. For example, the report does not indicate how many teachers left the profession because they were dissatisfied with compensation, working conditions, tenure, evaluation, testing, and so on.
As in past years, the top reasons that teachers left were 1) to teach in another NC public school system, 2) retirement, and 3) resigned due to family relocation (See Facts and Stats below). We can attribute around half of the statewide teacher turnover rate to these three reasons. The first represents no net loss to the state. Those teachers are simply migrating from one North Carolina public school to another (for unspecified reasons). The latter two are beyond districts’ control.
In fact, teachers continue to find new opportunities in North Carolina schools. Nearly 4,100 of the 13,557 teachers that left the classroom last year remained in education. Of those who remained in education, most resigned to teach in another public school in North Carolina or accepted a non-teaching position in education. The number of teachers in these two categories has been on the rise in recent years.
“All 115 LEAs reported their district-level turnover data this year. The calculations show that 13,557 teachers out of the 96,010 teachers employed during the 2012-2013 school year left their LEAs, resulting in an overall state turnover rate of 14.12%. This represents a decrease in the state’s overall turnover rate, as reported for the 2012-2013 school year at 14.33%.” —DPI
Moreover, thousands of teachers leave the profession each year to address personal matters. These include family relocation, health, childcare, or to continue their education. Last year, approximately 2,600 reported that they left the teaching profession for those reasons.
The categories that will get the most attention, despite the fact that they only accounted for 1.8 percent of the total teaching workforce last year, concern teachers who were dissatisfied with teaching or left North Carolina to teach in another state. Last year, around 1,000 teachers resigned because they were dissatisfied with teaching or desired a career change. Another 734 teachers left North Carolina to teach in another state. There was a year-to-year increase in both categories. While reporting limitations make it impossible to determine which aspects of the teaching profession prompted teachers to change careers, I suspect that intense recruiting efforts by out-of-state school districts led to the increase in North Carolina teachers accepting positions elsewhere.
Despite this year’s slight decrease, there has been an uptick in teacher turnover in recent years. Left-wing advocacy organizations, school district personnel, teacher unions, and the mainstream media have argued that Republican education reforms are driving more and more teachers out of North Carolina’s public school classrooms. But correlation is not causation. There is simply not enough data to identify the cause or causes of teacher turnover in North Carolina. Unfortunately, that will not stop some from using the Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession for political gain.
The preceding post was written by Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. It was originally published on October 30, 2014 and his full article can be viewed here.