Mississippi teacher attrition rate ticks up this school year and is worse in low-performing districts

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:58 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Yes, Mississippi teachers got a big pay boost this year. But data shows it may not solve all the teacher shortage concerns.

1 in 5 teachers in Mississippi left last year.

“We’re talking about teachers who are teaching in a given school year, and when the next one rolls around, they are gone, whether that is going to another district, maybe out of state, whether that’s taking another job, even in education, or whether it’s leaving teaching entirely to just leave the field,” explained Toren Ballard, Mississippi First Director of K-12 policy.

The problem was even worse in the state’s worst performing F districts.

“These are already the students that we know need the most support,” said Ballard. “When you have all these teachers walking out of the school, once a year, you kind of have this revolving door of low expectations. And we’re still expecting these schools to somehow turn themselves around.”

Despite the historic teacher pay raise, the numbers took a sharp uptick this year. We checked in with Kelly Riley at the Mississippi Professional Educators on what they’re hearing directly from teachers.

“So as an association, we’ve seen anecdotally, a higher number than usual of our members who’ve retired this past spring,” noted MPE Executive Director Kelly Riley. “And we attribute that to the pandemic. I mean, the past few years, you know, everybody thought, the spring of 2021, we were out was the roughest. And actually, it was the next two school years.”

That tracks with the data that shows attrition went down during those first two years of the pandemic before spiking. Mississippi Association of Educators Executive Director Erica Jones fears the attrition rates could’ve been even worse had the pay raise not passed.

“We heard from our educators loudly and clearly that it can’t be a one-and-done deal with the teacher pay raise, because as I mentioned before, there are so many different competitive fields now that are attracting our educators because of the pay because of lucrative benefits that go along with it,” explained Jones. “So this cannot be a one-and-done. "

Another factor those groups mentioned is that it goes beyond salaries. Things like rising insurance premiums impact the ultimate take-home pay of teachers.

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