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Pennsylvania teachers are leaving the classroom at a faster rate, a new study shows

A row of desks sit in a classroom.
A row of desks sit in a classroom.

Pennsylvania’s teacher attrition rate, the number of teachers leaving their positions, is the highest on record, according to an analysis by Ed Fuller in Penn State’s College of Education. Up 1.5% from last year, 9,587 Pennsylvania educators left their posts this school year.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has kept records on attrition rates since the 2014-15 school year.

Attrition was highest among teachers of color and in areas primarily serving students of color. And Pennsylvania’s charter schools saw by far the highest rates of attrition, Fuller said.

“Policy makers should be concerned. Parents should be concerned. Everybody in the commonwealth should be concerned about our increasing attrition rate, particularly for teachers of color and particularly for schools serving lots of kids of color and kids in poverty,” he said.

Philadelphia County saw by far the highest rate of attrition at 16.4%, more than double the state-wide average of 7.7%. And Centre (9.3%), Warren (9.5%), McKean (8.3%), Mifflin (10.1%) and Clinton (10.1%) counties were also significantly higher than the record-setting rate.

Fuller said he is unsure why certain areas saw higher rates than others. The data offers numbers, but interviews and teacher surveys are required to learn the specifics, he said.

Generally, however, the two biggest issues for educators are pay and working conditions, he said.

In addition to the attrition issue, Fuller said Pennsylvania enrolled the fewest number of new teachers on record this year. 5,101 new teachers were certified, only about half as many as left their posts.

“We have fewer people coming out of teacher preparation programs. We have the highest attrition rate. We have the worst shortage we’ve had perhaps ever, and they’re all happening at the same time,” Fuller said. “So this is going to have a negative impact on schools across the commonwealth.”

Proposed solutions in the study include increases in teacher pay, teaching stipends for certain schools and a survey of working conditions.

James Engel is a WPSU news intern and senior at Penn State.