Teachers decide to leave the classroom for a multitude of reasons (e.g., low pay, teacher working conditions, lack of career advancement, stress/burnout, etc.). Following the 2020-21 school year, nearly 9% of teachers were no longer teaching in a North Carolina public school (NC DPI, 2022). While teacher attrition is not new, it is a problem that was exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a shortage of certified teachers across our state. While this does not necessarily result in students being unsupervised or without instruction, it does result in schools having to increase class sizes, not offer certain classes, and/or hire teachers not fully qualified for the grade and/or subject they are hired to teach.
Through bringing together multiple collaborators, this project provides insights to NC DPI and other key stakeholders on how the pandemic has impacted the educator workforce and what districts throughout the state are doing to retain existing teachers and recruit new hires. In examining how school districts across the state are intervening to retain teachers, this project aims to determine which interventions are working and provide insight into additional supports that may be needed to reduce teacher attrition. However, schools and districts cannot address this challenge on their own, as solutions are needed across the professional pipeline—from pre-service to retirement. At the pre-service level, Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) are engaging in remedies to teacher attrition that are aimed to circumvent pre-service candidates not matriculating into the workforce. Having a more nuanced understanding as to why teachers decide to stay or leave the profession will help design more strategic interventions across the career spectrum.
The findings obtained from this study may be used by the state and districts to inform decisions around teacher recruitment and implementation of effective retention interventions. This research will provide important information to EPPs across the state that can be accessed to inform potential adjustments to course offerings, pre-service teacher placements, and overall teacher preparation. The proposed project will produce published papers and presentations that will assist stakeholders concerned with teacher attrition. Reports and peer-reviewed works will help researchers and practitioners understand the status and trajectory of North Carolina’s teacher workforce. This research has the potential to improve on current processes and to uncover the feasibility of alternative and more effective teacher retention processes in our public schools.