Fewer North Carolina public school teachers left their jobs last year, but more educators moved to work in other school districts or charter schools in the state.
A new draft state report on teacher employment released this week shows that 8.65 percent of North Carolina public school teachers left the profession last school year, down from 9 percent the previous year. At the same time, 4.80 percent of teachers left their districts to work in other public schools in the state, up from 4.36 percent the previous year.
The overall state teacher attrition rose slightly from 13.40 percent to 13.45 percent last year. This means 12,750 teachers either quit teaching in North Carolina’s public schools or decided they needed to work elsewhere in the state.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools lost 1,133 teachers, or 13 percent of its work force. That includes 871 who left the profession or moved to another state, and 262 who switched to other districts or North Carolina charter schools. Meanwhile, CMS hired 209 teachers from other public schools in the state.
The annual report from the state Department of Public Instruction comes amid the continuing political fight over teacher turnover. Democrats claim teachers are leaving because of low pay and lack of respect. Republicans say the talk of a mass exodus of unhappy teachers is overblown.
The Republican-led state legislature has raised teacher pay over the last several years, particularly for less experienced educators. The higher pay has also come with changes such as not giving newer teachers extra pay for advanced degrees or letting them receive career status, popularly called tenure.
The Department of Public Instruction compiles an annual tally of how many teachers leave their jobs and why. It’s designed to help state officials understand which departures are unavoidable (such as retirement, layoffs and death), which are desirable (a relatively small number of teachers who are fired or forced out) and which reflect losses the state might be able to stanch.
Teachers who changed careers said they quit because of dissatisfaction, family responsibilities or relocation. These teachers are grouped under “personal reasons,” which accounted for 54 percent of the state’s losses and 64 percent for CMS.
The state fired or forced out 638 teachers, accounting for almost 8 percent of departures. That’s about seven-tenths of a percent of almost 95,000 North Carolina teachers, a rate that some critics say show schools are slow to dismiss weak teachers.
CMS initiated 68 teacher departures, also about 8 percent of its departures and about eight-tenths of a percent of its workforce.
CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, who started the top job in July, said Wednesday that keeping good teachers is one of his high priorities: “Addressing this issue will also become a focal point as we approach budget season.”
The reported released in 2015 said 14.8 percent of teachers left their positions, highest rate in five years. But state officials said that the last two years can’t be compared to prior years because of changes in how the data is recorded and collected.
The latest report, which was presented two months later than usual, shows that 8,201 teachers stopped teaching in the state’s public schools between March 2016 and March 2017. The top reasons for the resignations were:
▪ Retirement with full benefits – 1,533
▪ Resigned due to family relocation – 1,006
▪ Resigned for unknown reasons – 949
▪ Resigned due to career change –865
▪ Resigned to teach in another state – 767
Turnover data is not reported for individual schools, including charter schools.