Report: North Carolina Teacher Turnover High, Problematic

According to a recent report the number of teachers leaving the classroom in North Carolina reached a five-year high during the 2012 – 2013 school year, and whether the state now faces a mass exodus of teachers is up for debate.

The Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the profession presented to the State Board of Education suggested that in the past year, school systems throughout the state had an average teacher turnover rate of 14.33%. This means that 13,616 of the state's 95,028 teachers left their districts in real numbers.

By contrast, during the 2011 – 2012 school year, teachers left their districts at a rate of 12.13%. A new state budget that gutted many teachers' benefits including teacher tenure and pay increases for teachers with masters degrees was passed over the summer by North Carolina legislature, which preceded the report.

Moving to teach in another North Carolina school, or to a non-teaching position in education, or for unrelated reasons such as health issues are among the causes that led to teachers to leave. Additionally, personal reasons, which included relocating to teach in another state or feeling dissatisfied with the profession, was reported by 15% of the teachers who left the district.

According to Rebecca Klein of The Huffington Post, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators Rodney Ellis said that he wasn't surprised by what he had heard about the results. Educators in North Carolina are some of the lowest paid in the nation, Ellis noted.

"We're losing a number of teachers in North Carolina, so many of them are going across the border and receiving an immediate salary increase," he said.

A "large exodus of quality educators" was predicted by Ellis in September if the legislature did not instate pay raises for teachers. Executive director of the nonprofit group Public Schools First NC, Karey Harwood, said that she fears future teacher turnover reports will look worse than this most recent one.

"There are some indications, mostly anecdotal, that there are teachers who have reached the tipping point and are looking to teach in a neighboring state or in a profession entirely other than teaching," she said.

Nevertheless, stakeholders are not all in agreement that the recent numbers are predictive of a future crisis. The director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, Dr. Terry Stoops, wrote in the Carolina Journal Online that concerns about the exodus of teachers from the state are blown out of proportion.

"The truth is that relatively few North Carolina teachers leave the profession to teach in other states. Moreover, this trend has been consistent for years, no matter who was in charge of our political institutions," he wrote. "Compensation may be an incentive for a North Carolina teacher to find a job in another state, but the ultracompetitive job market in many of them is a powerful disincentive."

Governor Pat McCrory has suggested in recent weeks that he would like to roll out proposals in early 2014 to increase the teacher pay.

"We are going to be looking at masters pay and pay raises and will the pay raises be based on performance or market conditions for individual studies. For example, math and science teachers get more than a P.E. teacher based upon the market conditions and will it be based upon tenure," he said during a radio interview.

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