Philadelphia Teachers Leaving the Profession at Alarming Rates, Exceeding New Graduates

A new analysis from Pennsylvania State University reveals that teachers in the Philadelphia School District and charter schools are leaving their profession at significantly higher rates than their counterparts in other parts of Pennsylvania.

Teachers in Philadelphia are quitting their jobs at alarming rates, surpassing the number of graduates from local teacher-preparation programs, according to a recent analysis conducted by Pennsylvania State University. This research sheds light on the growing teacher shortage crisis in the state, which has seen a decline in the number of teaching certificates issued. The study, titled “Where Did They Go? Examining Teacher Career Pathways in Philadelphia County,” examines the attrition rates of teachers employed in both traditional public and charter schools in Philadelphia from 2017 to 2022. The findings reveal a concerning trend of high teacher turnover and a disproportionate impact on the education system in Philadelphia.

Surge in Teacher Attrition in 2022

Teacher attrition in Philadelphia reached its highest level in 2022, with 13% of teachers in the Philadelphia School District and a staggering 23% of charter school teachers leaving their positions. These numbers represent an increase from 2018 when 16% of charter school teachers and 7% of district teachers quit. The study also highlights that charter school educators left at rates almost double those of district teachers. This discrepancy can be attributed to the fact that charters often employ uncertified teachers, and most charter school workforces are not unionized.

Inexperienced Teachers Leaving at High Rates

The analysis reveals that a significant number of inexperienced teachers are leaving the profession, particularly in charter schools. Nationally, teachers are most likely to leave within the first five years of their careers. However, the attrition rates for Philadelphia teachers, both in district and charter schools, within the first five years are higher than expected. The study found that 20% of charter teachers and 18% of district teachers left within their first year. By the fifth year, attrition dropped considerably for district teachers (9%), but remained high for charter teachers (17%). These findings emphasize the need to retain early-career teachers to improve teacher effectiveness and student outcomes.

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Most Teachers Leaving Education Altogether

The majority of charter teachers who quit their jobs also left the education field entirely. In 2018, 13% of charter teachers who left their positions exited teaching, while 6% of district teachers who quit did the same. Contrary to popular belief, data shows that Philadelphia teachers do not often leave the district for better-paying jobs in suburban schools. Only a small percentage of district teachers (1% in 2018 and 2.2% in 2022) moved to teaching positions in other districts or charter schools. In comparison, charter teachers were five times more likely to move to other charters or district schools.

Implications for Pennsylvania’s Education System

The high attrition rates among Philadelphia teachers have significant implications for Pennsylvania’s education system. Philadelphia employs approximately 20% of all teachers in the state but experiences 30% of teacher attrition. Furthermore, the number of teachers leaving the profession in Philadelphia County exceeds the number of newly prepared teachers from local teacher preparation programs. This leaves Philadelphia schools with a high number of teacher vacancies and often requires them to hire teachers from outside the state or employ teachers without full teaching credentials. The reliance on emergency-certified teachers contributes to the attrition rates and poses challenges for both the teachers and the students they serve.

The Cost of High Teacher Turnover

The departure of teachers comes at a cost to students, educators, and schools. The Learning Policy Institute estimates that each teacher who leaves results in a cost of $27,000, including the direct costs of replacing teachers and the indirect costs of decreased student outcomes. Midyear departures also disrupt the learning environment, as other teachers have to step in and cover classes. To address this issue, the study suggests increasing the number of students in teacher preparation programs. Additionally, survey responses from Philadelphia district and charter teachers indicate that improved pay and working conditions are key incentives to retain teachers in the profession.

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The alarming rates of teacher attrition in the Philadelphia School District and charter schools have serious implications for the education system in the city and the state of Pennsylvania. The findings of the analysis conducted by Pennsylvania State University highlight the need for comprehensive strategies to address the teacher shortage crisis. Retaining early-career teachers and improving working conditions are crucial for enhancing teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. By investing in teacher preparation programs and providing competitive salaries, Philadelphia can work towards creating a stable and supportive environment for its educators, ensuring the quality education that students deserve.