LUMBERTON —Teresa Davis, president of the 800-member Robeson County Association of Educators, isn’t surprised with the increasing number of teachers in Robeson County and statewide who are leaving the profession or taking teaching positions in other states.
“It’s all about money,” Davis said, “especially in the border counties of the state, they can drive to South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee and get teaching jobs where they are paid more. It’s no surprise this is happening since there has been no pay raise for teachers in North Carolina, and now they are losing career status (tenure).”
According to the state Department of Public Instruction’s 2012-13 Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession, Robeson County during the school year that concluded in May lost 273 of its 1,505 teachers. The county’s turnover rate of 18.14 tied with Lexington City for the 23rd highest rate out of the state’s 115 local school districts.
The county’s turnover rate also topped the state average of 14 percent, according to the report that was presented to the state Board of Education on Wednesday.
The report also showed Robeson County’s turnover rate during the 2011-12 school year to be 8.58 percent. Over the past five years the county’s turnover rate has averaged 11.2 percent.
Johnny Hunt, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, agrees with Davis that money is a big factor in teachers taking jobs outside of Robeson County.
“We lose many teachers to surrounding counties because they pay higher supplements than we do,” Hunt said. “We currently pay a 5 percent salary supplement to teachers.”
Some teachers have left the profession rather than adjust to changes in teaching required by the Common Core State Standards, said Hunt. Others have left because of stress or dissatisfaction over what teaching has become as a result of standardized testing mandated by the state.
“Many veteran teachers have chosen to retire rather than make the necessary changes required by the Common Core state standards. These teachers would have had to make huge changes in their teaching approaches in order for students to be successful on the Common Core Standards assessments,” Hunt said. “Several teachers have left the profession to pursue other careers outside of education due to dissatisfaction and/or stress and teacher burnout from the pressures of standardized testing mandated by the state.”
Dwayne Smith, a member of the school district’s Board of Education, strongly opposes the state imposing so many regulations on teachers, especially those teachers who have been in the profession for several years.
“I believe there have to be regulations, but the state has gone too far when it tells a teacher who has been in the profession 15 or 20 years exactly what they can and can’t do in the classroom, especially when the teacher’s method of teaching has always been effective.” Smith said. “Teachers just aren’t going to take that.”
According to both Hunt and Davis, the increase in teacher turnover is likely to continue.
“I do think the teacher turnover will rise each year. There are more pressures being put on teachers with state mandated standardized testing, the North Carolina Educator Evaluation instrument, and no increase in pay,” Hunt said. “Also, the state has decided to no longer pay teachers increased pay for obtaining a master’s degree. Tenure is going away and teachers will be on either one-year, two-year or four-year contracts. There are really not many incentives to even go into the education field. Teachers do not feel valued and appreciated.”
“I would hope this trend won’t continue,” Davis said. “But if a teacher can increase their salary by $1,000 or more by going somewhere else, they are going to leave Robeson County to work.”