Hundreds of Idaho teachers leaving the classroom before retirement age

BOISE — The State Board of Education took a hard look at Idaho’s teacher shortage Thursday and learned the problem is actually one of attrition.

Christina Linder, the State Board’s educator effectiveness program manager, said the problem is that hundreds of newer Idaho teachers leave the classroom every year, well before retirement age.

Christina Linder

According to Linder’s research, Idaho’s annual turnover rate of 10 percent exceeds the national rate of 8 percent. Last year, 1,613 Idaho teachers left the teaching profession. About 80 percent of them (1,080) left teaching for reasons other than retirement.

“The bottom line is, as with last year, we know for a fact our problem is not recruitment, it’s not production, it is retention,” Linder told the State Board.

Based on the number of educator certificates issued every year, Idaho should expect to have a teacher surplus of somewhere between 500 and 1,000 educators, Linder said. However, about one-third of the state’s newly certified teachers don’t even take education jobs in Idaho.

Some of those went on to teach out of state, some entered graduate school while others accepted more competitive non-teaching positions, Linder said.

Related to the attrition and retention issue is the increase in Idaho educators who are teaching under an alternative or interim certification. Linder said the percent of teachers who aren’t fully certified is 5.5 percent. Meanwhile, the percent of Idaho teachers who are working under an interim certificate has doubled in recent years, she said.

The attrition proves costly to Idaho taxpayers and school districts, which pay $6.8 million to replace those teachers annually, according to the State Board.

Linder said the problem is complex, but she argued that many young teachers feel overwhelmed and under-supported. She pointed to national research that shows that teaching attrition rates have been reduced by well-trained, effective mentorship programs.

“It seems like it would be a drop in the bucket every year to support something like that,” Linder said.

Teacher evaluations

In a related report, Linder said the compliance with teacher evaluation rules and laws has increased over the past year.

Linder and a team of 15 experienced educators reviewed 327 different evaluation files submitted by 163 school administrators.

Overall, they found 71 percent of evaluations for instructional staff met all state requirements for teacher evaluations. That’s up significantly from a year ago, when just 56 percent of evaluations met all state requirements.

Teacher evaluations have become increasingly important in Idaho because the Legislature tied a teacher’s ability to earn a raise to performance on teacher evaluations. Over the past four years, Idaho Education News and the Professional Standards Commission have documented inaccurate teacher evaluations — including instances of administrators not following state law or rules.

Linder’s report identified several areas in which evaluations fell short:

  • 16 percent of evaluations screened did not even rate instructional staff for all 22 components of the evaluation framework.
  • 11 percent of instructional staff evaluations reviewed were not based on two documented classroom observations, as required by Idaho law.
  • 10 percent of instructional staff evaluations reviewed did not include a measure of student performance, as required by Idaho law.
Linda Clark

After listening to Linder’s report, State Board President Linda Clark asked what the consequences are.

“Is there any ‘so what’ left for a district that does not comply?” Clark said.

“I would say there is not,” Linder replied. “It is not enforced at this point.”

However, Linder said state officials have discussed potential consequences for districts that do not comply, including not allowing teachers to move up the professional rung of the career ladder salary law or earn merit-based salary increases known as master educator premiums — thus preventing teachers working in districts that don’t comply from earning higher pay.

The sample size Linder’s team reviewed corresponds to about 20 percent of Idaho school administrators and 20 percent of certified staff members, she said.

Linder’s report also indicated 27 percent of school administrators said they would like additional training or support in using evidence in evaluations. Other administrators said they would like to see clearer definitions of basic terms including “evaluation” and “observation.”

During the 2018 legislative session, the State Board brought a proposed bill to the House Education Committee intending to clear up some of the requirements for teacher evaluations. But, led by Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, the committee killed the bill before it could even be introduced.

Kerby is no stranger to the teacher evaluations debate. Last year, the Professional Standards Commission placed a written reprimand in Kerby’s personnel file after he submitted incomplete teacher evaluations to the state while he was serving as superintendent of the New Plymouth School District, prior to his retirement.

Earlier this month, House leadership promoted Kerby to become vice chairman of the House Education Committee.

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