About That “State of the Teaching Profession in NC” Report

Today, a draft of a new 2019 state report on teaching was released. Entitled “State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina,” it chronicles last year’s numbers as far as teacher attrition and  turnover are concerned.

As highlighted by NC Policy Watch’s Clayton Henkel, here are the key stats involving teacher turnover:

  • 94,909 – total number of teachers employed in North Carolina between March 2017 and March 2018
  • 7,674 – of that total, the number of teachers who are no longer employed in NC public schools (including those not teaching in public charter schools).
  • 8.09% – the overall statewide attrition rate of North Carolina public school teachers in the 2017-18 school year
  • 8.70% – the overall statewide attrition rate of North Carolina public school teachers in the 2016-17 school year
  • 15,595 – the number of Beginning Teachers (BTs) employed statewide between March 2017 and March 2018
  • 12.34% – the attrition rate for Beginning Teachers in NC in 2017-2018
  • 79, 314 – the number of Experienced, Licensed Teachers in NC in 2017-2018
  • 7.25% – the attrition rate for Experienced, Licensed Teachers in NC in 2017-2018
  • 5,636 – the number of Lateral entry (LE) teachers who were employed between March 2017 and March 2018
  • 874  (15.51%) – the number of Lateral entry (LE) teachers who were no longer employed in
    NC public schools in March 2018
  • 261 – the number of Teach for America (TFA) Teachers who were employed in March 2017
  • 82 (31.42%) – the number of Teach for America (TFA) Teachers who were no longer employed in NC public schools in March 2018
  • 53.9 – the percentage of teachers who left employment in NC public schools who cited “Personal Reasons” for their decision to depart
  • 21.5 – the percentage of teachers who left employment in NC public schools who cited retirement (with full benefits) as their reason for departure
  • 12.3 – the percentage of teachers who left employment in NC public schools who cited family relocation as their reason for departure
  • 84 (11.5%) – the number of teachers who resigned due to career change
  • 704 (9.2 % ) – the number of teachers who resigned to teach in another state
  • 32.5% – the attrition rate of teachers in Warren County Schools for 2017-2018 (the highest teacher vacancy rate in NC)
  • 25.5% – the attrition rate for Northampton County Schools
  • 10.3% – the attrition rate for Wake County Schools
  • 12.5 % – the attrition rate for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation concluded those numbers led to a concrete conclusion: that teachers really must like their jobs or they would be leaving for other plentiful opportunities created by the Trump presidency.

“Teacher attrition declined for the third straight year and dropped by nearly a percentage point since 2016.  The overall state attrition rate for 2015-2016 was 9.04 percent.  It dropped to 8.70 percent in 2016-17.  It dropped again to 8.09 percent in 2017-18.

Thousands of teachers walked out of their classrooms last year to travel to Raleigh to protest Republican education policies and encourage voters to vote for Democratic candidates in the November election. Despite those efforts, Republicans maintained majority control of the N.C. General Assembly.

If teachers truly felt “disrespected” by Republican legislative policies, one could argue that they would be leaving the profession in greater numbers, pursuing the plentiful opportunities supplied by the Trump economic boom.”

Odd that he simply look at the attrition percentages and automatically conclude what he did.

Beginning teachers had a higher rate of attrition than veteran teachers although all of those “historic” raises targeted those teachers in the early years of their careers. But those teachers will never get career status or graduate degree pay like many veteran teachers do as of now. Their retirement maybe has not vested or they are young enough to realize that living on a teacher’s salary may not be as easy in their veteran years as one might have hoped.

Teach For America teachers show a high attrition rate as it is commonly known that most only stay in the profession for 2-5 years. Just ask our state superintendent.

Those numbers do not show the transfer rate of teachers who may go from one county to another LEA that might offer a substantially higher local teacher supplement.

And is it not ironic that after the cut-off date for the data collection for the report there was a march of over 20,000 educators in Raleigh to advocate for public schools? Stoops may cite a victory in the fact that the GOP kept majorities in a gerrymandered state, but that is nothing more than a refusal to  look at the the reality more closely.

The governor got the power of concrete vetoes. No more nuclear options for passing budgets. Key privatizers were defeated. The NC Supreme Court is about to become a 7-1 majority.

And the young voters really showed up – in midterms. And as Stoops’s boss said not long ago in the Washington Post,

“One reason the wealthy donors are so amenable to investing so much in education is alarm about the next generation. Recent polling shows younger people have a more favorable impression of socialism than capitalism. “The younger generation is less sympathetic and less understanding of limited government conservatism,” said Art Pope of North Carolina, a fixture of Koch meetings. “They’re more sympathetic or more willing to give not just social justice but outright socialism a chance. … It used to be you didn’t have to have a serious conversation about socialism in American politics. Now you do. So what is the appeal of that? How do you message?”

But the best rebuttal to the “teachers complain too much when so much ‘good’ is happening” comes from long time education activist and public school advocate John deVille. He articulates:

“It would be hard to cram more fallacies in a smaller space than Dr. Stoops has been able to achieve.

Stoops points to miniscule drops in NC teacher attrition rates over the past three years as sufficient evidence to call into question the wisdom, relevance, and appropriateness of our 20,000 to 30,000 teacher march last May 16th. In Dr. Stoop’s mind our NC teacher ire isn’t really legitimate if we aren’t leaving in larger numbers?

Huh?

Many American workers are dissatisfied but remain where they are because of insurance, mortgage payments…we have bills, you know.

We just learned through the calamitous Trump shutdown and the withholding of pay from 800,000 federal employees that we live in an economy where 78% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, so leaving a position which has substantial shortcomings isn’t always an option…not when it means significant deprivation and massive damage to a household’s economic health when there is just a one to four week gap in pay.

So that might be a reason why the attrition numbers are slightly down.

It could be that we are almost natural born advocates for children, that we feel a responsibility for them. We see children in increasing numbers in our classrooms suffering from the ravages of poverty and trauma and abandoning them isn’t in our collective DNA. It could be that we marched because we want the school supply budget which remains less than half of what it was in 2008 restored to these children. Maybe we were marching for more wrap around services, for counseling and for nurses.

Maybe we are leaving in slightly fewer numbers because so many teachers have already left. Basic math suggests that when your overall teacher population has already been depleted that the aggravating source of the depletion, the attrition, even if it remains constant, won’t have the same mathematical impact because the target has already diminished.

I’m sure that all of my fellow teachers who were in the streets on May 16th are not aware of Dr. Stoop’s fanciful and false premise of the “plentiful opportunities supplied by the Trump economic boom.” I’m assuming that Dr. Stoops is aware of the phenomenon of rising income inequality in the Tarheel state and the nation which has been a constant and increasing figure on the landscape since 1980. So while here in NC, since the Great Recession, our overall economy has, like the national economy, expanded, the opportunities of which Dr. Stoops speaks, have not. According to a report published last year by the Economic Policy Institute, only six states are doing worse since 2008 when it comes to rising income inequality. For most of us, while the challenges in our classrooms are formidable, we know that those problems nor our economic woes will not be solved by becoming 30 hour a week baristas.

Finally, Dr. Stoops concludes with some exceptional humor, that things for our students and our classrooms can’t be all that bad since the Republicans hold the majority in the General Assembly.

Indeed they do.

The questionable and consistently challenged in court gerrymandering performed by the GOP in 2011 has made retaking either chamber exceptionally difficult. Nevertheless, far more NC voters voted FOR the classroom and against the parsimony and callousness which is the stock and trade of the NC GOP. A progressive, pro-public school coalition did indeed break the supermajority AND received far more votes than those elected officials who oppose the children’s interests in our classrooms. Moreover, many Republicans have shifted their stances viz the NC public school classroom and have become more supportive since the march and the election. “

income inequality

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