Sep 11, 2023 - News

Philly schools still losing lots of teachers

Philadelphia School District full-time teacher <span style="background:#15a0ff; padding:3px 5px;color:white;">retirements</span> and <span style="background:#00347f; padding:3px 5px;color:white;">resignations</span>
Data: School District of Philadelphia; Chart: Axios Visuals

Philly public schools are still struggling with a teacher exodus, though it's not as severe as it was at the height of the pandemic.

Why it matters: Teacher turnover can lower kids' test scores and achievement, negatively affect school officials, and disrupt staff collaboration.

Driving the news: Philly schools saw 382 full-time teachers resign during the 2022-23 school year, per district data.

  • That was down nearly 24% from 2021-22, when resignations hit a decade high.
  • At least another 168 teachers retired last year.
  • Among places with the highest turnover were Thomas A. Edison High School (12 teachers departed), Dobbins High School (10), and Hill-Freedman World Academy (9), per district data.

The intrigue: Superintendent Tony Watlington, who took over last year, has said he wants to offer financial incentives to teachers to boost retention and reduce turnover, such as annual performance bonuses, per the Inquirer.

  • A pilot program for recruitment and retention incentives could be put in place next school year, per the district's five-year plan.

The other side: Jerry Jordan, the teachers' union president, tells Axios that resignations were being driven by poor working conditions, including large class sizes, understaffing and a lack of air conditioning in most buildings.

  • Jordan says he's uncertain whether Watlington can turn things around.
  • "The superintendent has a huge impact on what happens in the system, but for teachers it's what happens in their individual buildings," he said.

Of note: Additional teachers likely left the district for other reasons as well, such as termination.

  • The district didn't respond to requests for comment about how many vacancies it had going into this school year.

The big picture: Pennsylvania has also seen teacher attrition rates inch higher in recent years as more educators have decided to leave the profession, per a Penn State report.

What they're saying: Ed Fuller, an expert on education policy at the university, tells Axios that turnover in the state has reached a crisis point given that fewer teachers are entering the workforce.

  • "We're still going to be facing a shortage [of teachers] for the next two or three years until the pipeline rebounds," he said.
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