Idaho’s teacher-retention rate holds firm, again

Idaho’s average teacher-retention rate stayed above 90% for the second straight year in 2021, a sign that despite difficulties tied to the pandemic, the state’s K-12 teachers have largely stayed put.

The State Department of Education’s latest 90.8% average retention rate falls in line with 2020’s national average of 92% and the then-state average of 91%.

Idaho’s rate fell slightly from 90.3% in 2018 to 89% in 2019, before COVID-19 hit.

Teacher retention has been a focal point during the pandemic, as schools and educators approach two years of additional off-and-on challenges, from back-and-forths between remote and hybrid learning to workdays plagued by the illness.

So far during the health crisis, the state’s retention rate has held firm. But at least one sign suggests that things could change.

Idaho Education Association President Layne McInelly told KTVB last month that 51% of teachers his organization recently polled are either considering retiring early or leaving the profession altogether.

Time will tell if a broader exodus looms, but the current trend of teachers sticking it out transcends Idaho. Chalkbeat pointed Wednesday to data from five states and 19 large U.S. school districts, including New York City and Houston, showing that turnover rates in these areas are comparable to pre-pandemic rates.

Yet despite these broader trends, staffing teachers can be a tricky task in some isolated pockets of the state.

“Small, rural (and) remote districts struggle,” said Michael Jacobsen, superintendent of the Irwin-based Swan Valley Elementary district, which staffs just five teachers. The 75-student district’s 2021 retention rate: 75%. Jacobsen also pointed to troubles filling positions, which increases the sting of teacher vacancies.

Other small or remote districts and charter schools wound up at the bottom of the 2021 list. Here’s a list of the bottom five, along with their enrollments and 2021 retention rates:

  • Prairie Elementary (six students): 0%
  • Arbon Elementary (23 students): 50%
  • Kamiah Joint (402 students): 53:1%
  • Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center (397 students): 58.3%
  • Monticello Montessori Charter School (149 students): 58.3%

But retention rates can obviously vary greatly in small districts and charters, where a single exodus or two can completely sink an average, or reduce it by double digits.

Still, several small and rural districts topped the state’s 2021 list. Of Idaho’s 11 districts and charters with a 100% retention in 2021, five enroll fewer than 200 students:

  • Salmon River (142 students)
  • Nezperce Joint (158 students)
  • Pleasant Valley Elementary (seven students)
  • Avery Elementary (22 students)
  • Three Creek Joint Elementary (three students)
  • Vision Charter School (729 students)
  • Idaho Virtual Education partners (255 students)
  • Legacy Public Charter (308 students)
  • North Idaho STEM Charter Academy (572 students)
  • Idaho College and Career Readiness Academy: (189 students)
  • Treasure Valley Classical Academy (489 students)

Meanwhile, the state’s largest districts fell in line with the state average.  Here’s what happened in Idaho’s five biggest districts:

  • West Ada (39,073 students): 90.4%
  • Boise (23,368 students): 90.8%
  • Nampa (13,668 students): 89.8%
  • Bonneville (13,483 students): 89.4%
  • Pocatello-Chubbuck (12,123 students): 88.6%

Click here to view 2021 retention rates in districts and charters across the state.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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