Thousands of South Carolina teachers are skipping class and not coming back to school, according to a new report by the Center of Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA).
Nearly 6,500 teachers in South Carolina did not return to their classroom in the 2016-2017 school year, which the report says reflects a 21 percent increase from the 2015-2016 school year where 5,352 teachers did not return to their jobs. Over 4,800 of those teachers who quit did not return to the teaching profession at all this school year.
Dr. Jennifer Garrett, who complied the report, said the number of teachers leaving the profession poses a critical problem for rural schools in the state.
“I don’t know how else to say it — it’s pretty critical for these areas, these rural, underserved sort of poorer (areas),” Garrett said. “It’s very hard to not only get teachers to go there but to get teachers to stay there.”
She said those rural areas also have the biggest need for teachers because it is difficult to get qualified professionals to move to places with little economic development . Students in those areas already do not perform at the same level as other schools and they continue to have a revolving cast of teachers who stay for only a few years.
Dr. Garrett said she is also concerned about the level of preparedness in incoming teachers, since beginner teachers made up the bulk of those fleeing their classrooms. Over 38 percent of teachers who quit teaching last year left their schools with less than five years of experience. But even those teachers who quit after five years could be considered a veteran in the field. More than 12 percent of all the departures in the state last year came from teachers leaving after or during their first year teaching.
Under language included in the state budget last year, those school with high teacher turnover rates are now eligible to receive funds to implement recruitment and retention incentives. State officials, including Gov. Nikki Haley, hope the increased pay and tuition forgiveness offered to new teachers in those districts can help reduce the drain.
But the numbers are getting to be so staggering that CERRA worries even monetary incentives are not going to help much.
“Those are real issues that are just bigger,” Garrett said. “Bigger than just handing over a signing bonus to a teacher.”