The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 3, 2013

Teacher retention remains challenge for Joplin schools

JOPLIN, Mo. — As the Joplin School District gears up for a new school year, students will see fewer familiar faces at the front of the classroom.

The number of resignations in the district rose from 57 in 2012 to 76 in 2013. The number of staff members choosing to retire rose from 16 to 30 within the same time period, creating an overall turnover rate that rose from 10.1 percent to 14.5 percent among the district’s more than 700 certified staff.

The turnover rate has nearly doubled within the district since 2009, when it was 7.6 percent.

District officials, former teachers and a state teacher representative say there are a variety of factors at work in that shift.

They ranged from taking a better paying job in another district to wanting to spend more time with family. Some teachers expressed frustration with the increased focus on student performance while claiming they were not getting the support needed to meet those goals, and with an emphasis on technology in the classroom that limits personal interaction with students.

Sara Robertson, a press representative for the National Education Association, said that despite the increase in turnover, the Joplin district is still “doing well” when it is compared with the most recent national figures.

The NEA, she said, bases its data on the Schools and Staffing Survey compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics every four years. The most recent survey was released in 2008, she said. New data from the survey is expected to be released later this month.

The last survey showed a national turnover rate of 46 percent. The number represents teachers who left the school they were teaching in, though not necessarily the teaching profession. The attrition rate — teachers who left the profession entirely — was 30 percent.

State turnover numbers paint a similar picture.

The most recent data available from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education showed nearly 30 percent of teachers leaving the work force after one to five years between 1996 and 2007. In 2009, 17.8 percent of first-year teachers left the classroom.

While those numbers may be the norm, the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future concluded they point to a serious problem.

“The rate of teacher turnover and churn is consistently high, it undermines teaching quality, it is costly, and it drains precious resources from schools,” a representative of the commission stated in response to Globe questions about the national statistics.

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