Teachers are leaving Pa. schools at the highest rate on record, a new analysis shows
“Recent research strongly suggests that the prestige and respect for teachers has declined dramatically in recent years,” a Penn State study found.
Teachers are leaving Pennsylvania classrooms at the highest rate on record, a new analysis found.
The study, by the Penn State Center for Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, examined teacher attrition from 2021-22 to 2022-23, concluding that 7.7% of the Pennsylvania teaching workforce, or 9,587 teachers, left their positions from one year to the next.
That’s up from the 6.2% attrition in 2022, and 5.4% in 2021, making it the highest-ever attrition rate on record, said Penn State education professor Ed Fuller, who conducted the analysis. The data do not show whether teachers are leaving for positions outside Pennsylvania or quitting teaching altogether.
The higher-than-usual attrition rate comes amid a nationwide teacher shortage and Pennsylvania issuing its lowest-ever number of new teaching certificates, according to another recent analysis by Fuller — a combination that means districts will have an even harder time filling teaching jobs.
Charter school teachers, teachers of color — especially Black, Latino, and multi-racial teachers — male teachers, and teachers who work at schools where students of color make up the majority of the student population generally left in higher numbers than their peers, according to Fuller’s research.
Teachers left middle schools at the highest rate, with about 10.6% of middle school teachers leaving their schools. The high school attrition rate was 8.8%, and the elementary school attrition rate was 6.4%.
More than one in five charter school teachers left their positions, Fuller found. At district schools, the number was much lower, 1 in 16. Black male teachers left at the highest rate, 18.1%, followed by Black female teachers, who left at a rate of 16.4%. By contrast, white male teachers had a or 6.7% attrition rate, and white female teachers had a 7.2% attrition rate.
Philadelphia’s teacher attrition rates were the highest in the state, more than 15%. Those numbers were driven in large part by the high turnover at charter schools, given the sector’s large presence in Philadelphia. The city has 83 charters, which enroll about 65,000 students. Most charter-school teachers are not unionized, and their pay is often lower.
Teacher turnover at the state’s poorest schools was highest, with the attrition rate at about 10%. Pennsylvania’s wealthiest schools had an attrition rate of 6.8%.
That is, “districts with arguably the most students in need of a well-qualified and stable cadre of teachers are the least able to offer children this valuable resource,” Fuller found.
Why are teachers leaving? Pay and working conditions — mostly student behavior issues, teacher involvement in decision-making, and school leadership — are driving the exodus, Fuller said, as is the job market.
But there’s another factor, too.
“Recent research strongly suggests that the prestige and respect for teachers has declined dramatically in recent years,” Fuller said.
Twelve years ago, 77% of teachers said they felt respected by community members; in 2022, that number was much lower, 46%.
“Declining respect and prestige create unfavorable working conditions that increase the odds that a teacher will quit the profession,” Fuller said.
Fuller suggested several fixes, from raising teacher pay to providing stipends for those working in hard-to-staff schools. He also recommended a statewide teacher conditions survey, funding a campaign to support and elevate teaching, and requiring principal and superintendent certification programs to emphasize the importance of teacher working conditions.