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Report finds teacher retention rates in Arizona affected by low pay, higher demands

(Flickr/Karen Stintz)

PHOENIX — More teachers in Arizona are leaving the profession due to factors ranging from poor pay rates to increasing amounts of administrative responsibilities.

A new report from Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy found more teachers are leaving the profession than are coming into it each year.

Forty-two percent of Arizona public school teachers hired in 2013 left the profession within three years, a rate that increased to 52 percent over the same time period for charter school teachers.

Today, more than one third of Arizona teachers have been teaching for four years or less.

The pay for Arizona elementary school teachers ranked at the lowest in the nation, with pay for high school teachers ranking at No. 49 when adjusted for cost-of-living.

While pay is a “major factor” in decreasing teacher retention rates, Morrison Institute director Thom Reilly said, “the issue is more nuanced than pay alone.”

“[Teachers] are increasingly feeling the pressure from continually increasing workloads and decreasing wages, leading many to leave the profession early,” Reilly said. “These same forces undoubtedly also discourage young people from considering teaching as a career.”

Teachers nowadays are required to take on more duties, which can lead to a quicker career burnout, Reilly said.

This is a problem because teachers take several years to become “fully effective,” and if they leave before their “maximum effectiveness” is reached, children may never be taught by an effective teacher.

However, the number of Arizona teachers with little experience can explain the state’s low education expense, “since so many teachers are near the bottom of the pay scale,” the report found.

Despite the issues with the profession in Arizona, the study found that “a large majority” of teachers said they are very or somewhat satisfied with their careers.

“The voices of Arizona teachers come through loud and clear: They love their work and a strong majority of teachers say they are satisfied with their careers,” Reilly said.

But the study advised Arizona lawmakers to solve the issue of teacher attraction and retention, not only for the sake of the children, but for the sake of the state’s economy.

“Having a well-educated population…is essential to democracy. It is also essential to a thriving economy,” the report said. “Today’s schoolchildren are the workers and taxpayers of the future and the state’s ability to prosper is directly tied to the success of our education system.”

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