Mar 24, 2022 - News

Midyear teacher resignations skyrocket in Philly School District

Illustration of a chalkboard with a waving hand emoji drawn on it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Midyear teacher resignations have jumped in the School District of Philadelphia this school year.

Driving the news: A total of 368 teachers left the district as of Feb. 15, up nearly 154% compared to the same time last year, according to the district.

  • The uptick bucked a trend of declining midyear resignations in the past several years, according to 2018-2019 school year data obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Midyear teacher resignations disrupt both student learning and staff collaboration, said Christina Clark, a district spokesperson.

  • Maintaining teachers also provides continuity and stability in the classroom, which, among other things, are critical to student success.

State of play: The district has more than 8,900 teachers as of last month — but is budgeted for more than 9,250.

  • Annual teacher retention also fell to 90.7% as of October, dropping from 92.7% in October 2020.

Zoom in: When a teacher resigns midyear, the school and district collaborate to find a solution that is the least disruptive to student learning, Clark said.

  • The subject areas most difficult to fill in the district are special education, math, science and certain language courses.

Between the lines: The district is working to stem the tide of resignations.

  • Teacher salaries are on track to rise 9% over the next three years, in addition to bonuses outlined in last year's new contract agreement.
  • $5,000 retention bonuses are paid out to educators in schools with high vacancy rates.
  • The district has also put in place opportunities for mentorship and teacher support, Clark said.

Of note: The district continues to offer daily bonuses for substitute teachers.

What they're saying: Clark in part blamed the rise in resignations on labor market changes brought on by the pandemic.

  • She said that while baby boomers are retiring, younger workers are slow to reenter the workforce and attracted to jobs that offer remote work.
  • "This school year has also presented large challenges for staff and students alike in education across the country, which has impacted some to choose other pathways or careers," she said.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, told Axios he was not surprised that many teachers, facing mounting demands before the pandemic, had reached their breaking point.

  • "With underfunding as well as District mandates contributing to exorbitant workloads for our members, it is a profession that has, for too many, become untenable," he said.
  • Jordan reiterated his calls for state-led investments and changes, like reducing class sizes, improving facilities and boosting recruitment and retention of educators of color.

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