TWIN FALLS — Across Idaho, 30 percent of teachers leave the profession by their fourth year.
Those figures, similar to national rates, are from an Idaho teacher pipeline workgroup report presented Thursday on the second day of the Idaho State Board of Education‘s meeting at the College of Southern Idaho.
The statewide teacher shortage has been a huge topic in recent years and it’s hitting rural communities the hardest — particularly, here in the Magic Valley. The state is working to boost teacher pay to help better attract and keep teachers in classrooms, but is still struggling with losing teachers to other states and careers.
“Region 4 is really, really struggling in the teacher shortage,” said Christina Linder, educator effectiveness program manager for the Idaho State Board of Education. That’s here in south-central Idaho.
Retaining teachers isn’t just a problem for schools. It costs $6 million to the state each year to replace teachers who leave “due to the leaky pipeline,” Linder said.
Plus, education experts say new teachers typically need three to seven years to reach proficiency and maximize their students’ performance.
The state’s workgroup is looking into recommendations such as creating more efficient pathways to teacher certification, exploring incentives — such as student loan forgiveness and housing options — for those who teach in a rural school district, “grow your own” strategies, and support and development for all teachers.
Despite those efforts, “we’ll always have a difficulty putting teachers in rural, remote districts,” Linder said.
Statewide, Idaho loses about 10 percent of its 15,000 teachers each year. Of the 1,500 who leave, 1,140 are departing for reasons other than retirement.
The state needs better data on how many teachers are leaving voluntarily, Linder said, versus those who aren’t offered a more permanent, non-provisional teaching certificate after their first three years.
If they’re being let go, they may have not received enough support to refine their teaching practices, she said. If they’re leaving voluntarily, they may have been overwhelmed by the complexities of teaching.
The state also needs to look further into why Idaho is losing teachers to border states, Linder said. And if teachers aren’t returning, she added, does it have anything to do with the way they’re being prepared to enter the profession?
Among first-year teachers, 15 percent don’t return for a second year. “They just say they are done and do not come back to the classroom,” Linder said.
One way to combat the problem is the state’s career ladder law, implemented in 2015. It’s boosting pay for kindergarten-through-12th-grade teachers over five years.
The law was quite specific to attracting teachers, board president Linda Clark said Thursday. There was a tremendous effort put toward that by state legislators, she said, “but that was only half of the charge.”
The other purpose is retaining teachers. It’s important to recognize supporting teachers is more than just providing mentoring, Clark said, and they need to be able to continue to move up the pay scale.
One incentive for more experienced teachers is the master educator premium plan. The state board approved it earlier this year. It allows experienced k-12 teachers to apply for a $4,000 yearly stipend by putting together a portfolio.