Board looks at why teachers leave jobs

Published 10:26 pm Monday, June 19, 2017

LaGRANGE – Even passionate teachers can have second thoughts on their profession if conditions are unfavorable, which is why school board officials took a close look at how many teachers are staying and why teachers are leaving on Thursday.

The Troup County School Board reviewed the reasons why teachers quit teaching and how many teachers leave jobs in Troup County Schools. Throughout the discussion, they referred to a survey of 53,000 Georgia teachers, which asked teachers to identify reasons why they leave the profession.

“We have the number one reason that was indicated, which was that the emphasis on mandated tests both at the local and at the state level were reasons why teachers said that they would not return to education,” Chief Human Resource Officer Sequita Freeman said.

Freeman said the second most popular response was the discrepancy in how teachers are graded, depending on the subject they teach. When teaching a graded subject, teachers can be scored more harshly than if they are teaching an ungraded one.

“How do we make that playing ground level, and give adequate accountability for both groups of people?” Freeman said.

Other reasons that were listed were level of teacher participation in decisions related to the profession, non-teaching school responsibilities (like data collection and required sporting events), levels of benefits, quality of ongoing support, resources and professional learning, leadership and level of preparation when entering the profession. It was also noted that while retiring teachers were not counted toward retention rates, the same factors often play into teachers retiring when they do.

“The number 41 percent of our people leaving due to retirement (in the 2015 Troup County Schools exit survey), I think we just need to remember something about that — and I am speaking from personal experience — I think a lot of our teachers, a reasonable number of our retirees, probably would have a few more good years left in them,” Board Member Cathy Hunt said. “I know I didn’t intend to retire right at 30 years, which is what I ended up doing, and I was looking at those eight (reasons why teachers retire), and I was thinking, yes I retired, but about five of those eight things were among my dissatisfaction and not wanting to stay.”

Those factors in teacher satisfaction will undoubtedly be the focus of the Troup County School Board’s continuing focus on school culture moving forward, but the numbers for teacher satisfaction were overall good.

“Within that survey, we also asked questions to determine employees’ satisfaction with their positions, with their schools and with the district, and 87 percent of them stated that they were satisfied with their position,” Freeman said.

“A little bit less were satisfied with their location, that includes the school, department, etc. Generally speaking, 82 percent were satisfied with coming to work, however there were some that noted that they felt a lack of support from their administrators.”

Troup County has retained between 85 and 89 percent of its teachers throughout the school system during the last five years with an average of 88 percent of teachers remaining each year. That satisfaction rate along with comparisons to state retention rates — which tend to sit around 90 percent — confirmed for the school board that while there is work that needs to be done, to encourage good teachers to stay in the school system, the schools are far from the teacher retention crisis that some feared.

“We have some areas, positions and schools that need some attention,” Freeman said. “We have some pockets of opportunities, and with the plans that we have for improving our middle schools, this should have a positive impact on our attrition rate (or ability to keep teachers) and the retention of highly qualified and highly affective and proficient employees.”

Out of the elementary schools, Berta Weathersbee Elementary School had the highest rate of attrition — or teachers resigning, retiring or leaving the school system without being replaced. The 2016-2017 data showed a five year high for the school system with 10.5 percent of teachers leaving Berta. The five-year average for Berta Weathersbee was 6.2 percent of teachers leaving.

In comparison, Franklin Forest Elementary Schools’ attrition rate topped out at 8.5 percent in 2015-2016 and averaged 5.1 percent over the last 5 years. The state average for 2014 was 6.5 percent.

It should be noted that Berta Weathersbee is currently in the process of changing principals, which does typically affect retention rates. Several school board officials expressed hopes that the new principal would bring with him a cultural shift in the school, which will affects teacher and student experiences.

“In order for us to continue to retain the best and the brightest, it is imperative we create an employee experience that leads to success for all,” Freeman said.

The average percentage of teachers leaving is higher for middle schools with Callaway Middle School averaging 8.7 percent, Gardner Newman Middle School averaging 13.3 percent and Long Cane Middle School averaging 12.2 percent. The Georgia average for 2014 was 7 percent.

The high schools have the highest five-year average both on local and state levels with Callaway High School averaging 11.4 percent of teachers leaving over five years. LaGrange High School has averaged 14.2 percent, and Troup High School has averaged 8.4 percent. The Georgia average for 2014 was 7.2 percent.

To view the results of the Georgia Department of Education Teacher Survey or to view the information on Troup County Schools Employment Trends visit