How many of your teachers want to quit? Depends what state you’re in

Districts are getting creative with pay by offering stipends and signing bonuses, among other retention strategies.

A large majority of teachers in one Western state say they would quit if they could. But elsewhere, a much smaller percentage of educators are thinking about leaving the profession.

It’s evidence that though there are widespread concerns about the teacher shortages administrators face, the labor pressures are not hitting districts or schools evenly, says Jessica Swanson, a senior fellow at the Edunomics Lab, a Georgetown University-based research center focused on K-12 finances.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers. In Wyoming, only about 12% of teachers say they plan to quit at the end of this school year, but a startling 65% of the teachers said that they would quit if their finances or other conditions allowed, according to a survey of about 700 educators by the University of Wyoming College of Education and the Wyoming Education Association.

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In North Carolina, more than three-quarters of teachers said they planned to continue in their current positions. That’s a slight decline from the more than 80% who said the same in 2021, according to the 2022 North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey.

The numbers are similar in Michigan, where about one in five teachers expects to change careers in the next two to three years–an increase of 9% since August–while another 14% plan to retire, according to a survey of nearly 2,600 educators by the Michigan Education Association.“The educator shortage is having a daily impact on students and educators alike,” MEA President Paula Herbart said. “This is adding to already overwhelming pressure caused by meeting students’ academic, social and emotional needs while also dealing with COVID-19, unfair evaluations, standardized testing, the threat of school violence and so much more.”

Districts are getting creative with pay to stem the problem, says Swanson of the Edunomics Lab. The Detroit Public Schools Community District gave targeted bonuses to special education teachers. Other districts have paid relocation expenses and given signing bonuses to new teachers. “We’re seeing more examples of districts paying stipends to teachers to take on additional work, such as tutoring,” Swanson says. “These districts are encouraging existing staff to cover the needs they have.”

Why teachers want to leave and how to retain them

A deeper dive into the three state surveys should guide administrators as they implement new retention strategies. A common thread is that teachers are frustrated about having less time to plan instruction and collaborate with colleagues due to the pressures of the pandemic. They also have health and wellbeing concerns. The Wyoming survey found that teachers with higher levels of anxiety or depression were more likely to want to quit. But educators who received more professional support and, to a lesser extent, community support were less likely to think about leaving.

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During the pandemic, Wyoming teachers have worked longer hours and faced more incidents of aggression, both of which have contributed to their desire to quit. “Even one physical or verbal attack or one incident of harassment has the potential to decrease job satisfaction,” the report says.

In Michigan, most of the teachers surveyed said they were very concerned about the impacts of shortages, such as lost preparation time and having to cover for absent colleagues. To increase retention, a large majority of the respondents urged administrators and other policymakers to raise salaries and benefits, offer retention bonuses, replace the state’s educator evaluation system and hire more staff to reduce workloads.

In North Carolina, teachers report they have lost non-instructional time as well as opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues over the last several years. Fewer teachers say they are being shielded from duties that interfere with “their essential role of educating students.” Among new teachers, there was a slight increase in the number who said they didn’t get the support they needed to improve their instructional practices or to want to continue teachers.

The North Carolina survey also asked teachers to rank the top reasons they would consider leaving:

  1. School leadership
  2. Time constraints during the school day
  3. Managing student conduct
  4. Instructional practices and support
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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