Nov 16, 2022 - News

Virginia's growing teacher gap

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

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Virginia teachers are leaving the field at a significantly higher rate than before the pandemic while the number of new educators entering the profession continues to decline, the state's nonpartisan watchdog agency found in a new report.

Why it matters: The report, from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, shows a critical and growing lack of qualified educators and support staff for Virginia schools, and comes on the heels of steep math and reading test score declines for students.

Driving the news: Teacher resignations increased by 12% for the 2020-21 school year over pre-pandemic averages, while licenses for new educators dropped by 15% for the 2021-22 school year, per the report..

  • The full data on teacher departures for the 2021-22 school year won't be available until February, but early numbers indicate continued high quit rates.

Meanwhile, the number of Virginia students studying to become teachers declined by 32% from 2011 to 2020, per the report.

Overall, the state's teacher gap — that is, teachers leaving versus new ones starting — has nearly tripled since before the pandemic.

Larger class sizes, teachers with provisional licenses and educators teaching subjects they weren't trained for are a few of the ways Virginia schools have made do, the report found.

  • But these concessions have created a morale issue for existing teachers, and 15% of those surveyed by JLARC said they're definitely or "likely to leave" the profession at the end of this school year.

More than half of teachers surveyed told JLARC that challenging student behavior and low pay are contributing to their poor job satisfaction.

  • Nearly half said "lack of respect from parents and the public" is an issue.

What they're saying: "The results of the JLARC report just underscore what we've been saying all along" that schools need more funding for education and support staff, increased teacher pay and more focus on student and staff mental health, James Fedderman, president of the state's teacher's union, tells Axios in a statement.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved 10% raises for teachers over the next two years, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin outlined this fall a plan to address teacher shortages.

What's next: JLARC's recommendations to lawmakers include more funding for divisions to offer signing and retention bonuses, plus tuition assistance for provisional teachers and the hiring of more aides.


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