Exit survey details why so many SC teachers quit their jobs

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — The number of teaching vacancies in South Carolina schools has increased in recent years, with more than 1,100 openings earlier this year.

Addressing the state’s teacher shortage was the subject of questioning during Wednesday’s debate between the two leading candidates for the state superintendent of education position, and this summer the state legislature The state has formed a teacher recruitment and retention task force that will study and recommend potential solutions.

A new report goes beyond those numbers to shed light on why so many teachers are quitting their jobs.

“The analogy I always use is the concept of a bucket. If you just turn on the tap and try to fill your bucket without considering why there are holes in the bottom of the bucket and why why the water is leaking out of it, you’ll never really be able to fill the bucket,” says Thomas Hodges.

Hodges is the dean of the College of Education at the University of South Carolina and the director of the South Carolina Teacher Education Advancement Consortium through Higher Education Research, or SC-TEACHER, which recently released the results of its teacher exit survey. 2021-2022.

It details responses from more than 500 South Carolina teachers who left their jobs at the end of the last school year.

He revealed that more than half of these teachers left the profession altogether, with some retiring and most taking up employment in another industry; 43% of responding teachers moved from one district to another.

Most teachers moving to a new district said the lure of a different district administration or reputation convinced them.

“The No. 1 driver, what we see from teachers engaging in lateral movement, are certain perceptions of the administrative quality of their current districts and the kinds of supports they receive,” Hodges said.

The survey also asked teachers why they chose to leave out of two dozen reasons, and teachers ranked them based on how important those reasons were to their decision.

The main reason, which attracted 44% of respondents saying it was “extremely important” or “very important” to their choice, was because of discipline issues at their school. This is more than double the percentage of teachers who cited this reason for leaving in the survey a year earlier.

Next come personal reasons, such as family care, pregnancy and health, which attracted 41% of teacher responses.

Low pay ranks lower on the list, with less than a third of teachers saying it was the reason they left their job.

But the main factor that could lead teachers who have left the profession to consider returning to it is salary, with 80% of these educators saying that a higher salary could encourage them to return.

But Emily Mayer, who quit her teaching job in Beaufort County after last school year, said that was not the case for her and suspects the same is true for many other alumni. teachers.

“I don’t think there’s a price anyone could put on it that would allow me to say, ‘Yeah, I would go back,'” she said. “I think there might be cultural shifts that might lead me to say, ‘Yes, sure, if you take X, Y, and Z off my plate, I’ll think about it. But for me, it had nothing to do with money.

Mayer worked for several years as a special education teacher, a dream she had held since childhood, and said it was never a job she would have imagined leaving.

But at the end of last school year, that dream wasn’t enough to keep her in class.

“At the end of the day, it’s not worth it, to be very, very frank,” she said. “I was a new mom who came home every day exhausted, upset, and couldn’t be the best parent I needed for my child.”

Mayer said she always felt supported in her work by the families of her students and was heartbroken to leave those children and her class.

But the work at her school kept piling up as her administration struggled with job vacancies, and she never let go. What had initially been a challenge to find creative solutions to shortages turned into frustration, she described.

Meanwhile, several colleagues left in the middle of the school year. Last year, the number of open teaching jobs across the state increased from the start of the school year to its midpoint, indicating that this was also happening at other North Carolina schools. South.

Mayer’s time away from the classroom on maternity leave last year caused her to really start thinking about life after teaching for the first time, but she said she couldn’t have – not to have left the profession if her husband had not helped her to carry out the work which had become so demanding. , especially since the pandemic, no longer made her happy.

She has since taken up a job outside of the profession which allows her to work from home with her daughter.

“You could tell me you’d offer me $100,000, and I’d say my sanity was worth more in the end, and I don’t think I’m the only one saying that,” she said. “At the end of the day, the last three months I haven’t been in class have been some of the happiest I’ve ever been.”

The teacher exit survey included responses from exiting teachers in 10 of South Carolina’s more than 70 school districts.

Because it was voluntary, Hodges said it was unclear whether his results were representative of the state as a whole, but he added that he included responses from rural and urban districts in different parts of the state. ‘State.

Hodges said next spring they plan to provide that survey to any district in South Carolina that wants to participate.

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