Virginia report shows more teachers are leaving the workforce than entering it

According a report of the Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission.

The data shows that 10,900 teachers left the workforce before the current school year, while only 7,208 first-licensed teachers were hired.

The finding was part of a larger study by the commission of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 public school students and staff.

“This is a major and substantive report from a non-partisan branch of our legislature and it makes it clear that significant new investment is needed to meet the needs of students and address our significant teacher shortage,” said said Chad Stewart, policy analyst for Virginia. Educational association. “And the administration will show us how prepared it is to respond to those recommendations based on what it chooses to put in its budget update in December.”

JLARC found that “prior to the pandemic, there were approximately 800 teaching vacancies statewide, on average.” This number has increased “substantially” to approximately 2,800 vacancies in October 2021 and 3,300 in mid-August 2022.

“The majority of divisions (86 of 131) had higher teacher turnover between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years compared to before the pandemic,” JLARC found. Turnover rose the most in Highland, King and Queen and Southampton counties, while fall 2021 vacancy rates were highest in Franklin City, at 32%, and Norfolk, at 17 %.

School divisions have relied on teachers with provisional licenses to fill vacancies, JLARC found. In the 2021-2022 school year, 9.5% of all teaching staff were teachers with provisional licenses, compared to 7.7% before the pandemic. Out-of-scope teachers, or those who teach a subject that differs from their area of ​​certification, have grown from 2.4% of the pre-pandemic workforce to 6.2% in 2021-22.

To address the teacher shortage, the commission recommended providing additional funding to school divisions with increased teacher turnover for retention and signing bonuses and offering tuition assistance so that provisional permits get a full license.

Low salaries and rising behavioral and mental health problems among students have contributed to declining teacher job satisfaction, JLARC staff said. Teachers also cited a higher workload due to vacancies and a lack of respect from parents and the public as sources of dissatisfaction.

Staff said that when students returned to in-person learning, teachers found that classroom behaviors, student absences and reported mental health issues worsened.

The data shows high vacancy rates for school psychologists, as well as a chronic truancy rate of 19% among students statewide.

Staff recommended that lawmakers provide school divisions with funding for training in behavioral issues and classroom management.

They also suggested that lawmakers consider changing state law to clearly define direct school counseling to reduce the time counselors spend on non-counselling activities and to allow qualified and licensed psychologists in d ‘other areas to obtain a provisional license.

Virginia lawmakers have taken various approaches to address the teacher shortage.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly funded 5% increases for teachers over the next two years, one-time $1,000 bonuses and signing bonuses for teachers.

In September, Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an executive directive outlining plans to address teacher shortage through steps such as hiring retired educators.

Student academic achievement has also declined during the pandemic, especially in reading and math. Last month, results from the fourth and eighth years of the National Education Progress Assessment showed decline in Virginia in reading and math between 2019 and 2022.

However, JLARC found that Virginia lacks a program to specifically address declining math for elementary students and recommended lawmakers consider creating and funding a temporary program for students who fail their grades. mathematics learning standards tests.

Youngkin has also announcement plans to address learning loss with a $30 million investment in Learning Restoration Grants and new partnerships with two national groups to provide educational resources and tutoring services.

Education Secretary Aimee Guidera said officials should use JLARC data as a “flashlight, not a hammer”.

Democratic Senator Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, disagreed that learning losses are entirely due to the pandemic. She said “the achievement gap didn’t start because of the pandemic. Achievement gaps existed before the pandemic, and the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. »

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