Nearly 1 in 3 public school teachers in Texas call it quits before reaching their sixth school year, according to recently released state data, and education advocates are split on whether billions of state dollars recently approved for raises will persuade teachers to stay longer.
The teacher turnover rate slipped to 31.3 percent in 2018 but has remained relatively constant over the past four years as Texas lawmakers and educators have struggled to figure out how to lure people to the profession while the state’s population and demand for high-quality teachers grows.
“I think you see a high burnout rate whenever you’ve got a challenging job that people are under-prepared for, under-resourced to be able to accomplish and then not particularly well-compensated for,” said Monty Exter, a spokesman for the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
The Legislature in May approved a $6.5 billion plan to increase educational outcomes and boost pay for teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. The initiative would favor teachers with more than five years’ experience and each school district would decide for itself how to dish out the funds. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the plan into law in the coming weeks.
Slightly fewer than a third of the nearly 17,700 educators who began working as a certified teacher in the 2013-14 school year left the profession before the beginning of last school year, taking jobs in private schools or moving out of state, according to the Texas Education Agency’s annual report on teacher retention. The 31.3 percent of educators who left before school started in 2018 poses a slight increase from the fall of 2017, when 30.9 percent of teachers left the job before their sixth school year. The statistics are a subtle improvement from 2015 and 2016, when around 34 percent of teachers quit before hitting that six-year anniversary.
Exter said it’s too soon to say how much of an effect increased teacher pay will have on keeping young educators in the profession because every school district will spread out raises differently.
“Is compensation part of the issue? Sure. I think you would find environment is more an issue than compensation and environment is primarily impacted by resources provided for educators once they get to the classroom and the training they get prior to getting to the classroom,” he said.
Clay Robison, of the Texas State Teachers Association, said veteran teachers need rewarding but beginning teachers need encouragement to keep them in the profession.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens when you don’t pay beginning teachers professional salaries,” he said. The state boost in teacher pay will help, but its success in keeping young educators in the classroom “depends on how patient these new teachers are,” Robison said.
The average salary for a Texas teacher is $54,122, according to the Texas Education Agency, about $6,000 less than the national average. The minimum salary for a beginning teacher is $28,080 and climbs annually, although many school districts pay above that base rate.
On HoustonChronicle.com: In Texas education funding plan, more teacher ‘compensation’ isn’t necessarily pay raises
Teachers who moved here from other states quit the fastest, the TEA found. After five years on the job, nearly half of the 1,828 teachers who began working in Texas in the 2013-14 school year were no longer teaching in public schools, according to state records. Last year, about 15 percent of teachers who moved here quit after one year on the job.
Teachers who graduate from university undergraduate programs are most likely to stay, with 75 percent of teachers on the job after five years. However, undergraduate programs are graduating fewer future teachers. The number of teachers who learned how to teach in an undergraduate program fell by 15 percent over the last five years to 6,485 teachers, who entered the classroom last fall.
Alternative certification programs are picking up the slack. The programs, such as Teach For America, produced 12,029 teachers who entered the classroom last school year, nearly double the number of teachers who took the traditional university route. However, 34 percent of teachers from alternative certification programs left the job before they would have returned a fifth time.