Dawnn Gulledge, English teacher at Lenoir County Early College High School in North Carolina, talks to a class in August 2014. (Sara Pezzoni/Free Press via Associated Press)

North Carolina has had a teacher turnover problem severe enough that the legislature last year passed a law to raise the salaries of some teachers to try to entice more to stay. But according to new state data, that rate rose in 2014-2015, and more teachers are leaving the state to teach elsewhere this academic year than last year.

A new draft report prepared for the General Assembly by the North Carolina Department of Education says the attrition rate in the last school year hit 14.84 percent, up from the 14.12 percent in 2013-2014.  It has risen four times in the past five years.

The reasons teachers have left their classrooms are grouped into five broad categories, according to the report:

  1. Teachers who left the LEA [local education agency] but remained in education
  2. Teachers who left the LEA for personal reasons
  3. Teachers who were terminated by the LEA
  4. Teachers who left the LEA for reasons beyond the LEA’s control
  5. Teachers who left the LEA for other reasons not listed above

Not included in the totals, the report says, are teachers who moved from one school to another school within the same school district. Included are international teachers required to return home after three years, and teachers hired through programs in which they promise to only work for two or three years, including Teach for America.

As Education Week noted in this story, the biggest turnover problem seems to be in the category of teacher dissatisfaction with their jobs. It says:

North Carolina lost about 2,700 teachers last year due to causes that suggest personal dissatisfaction with the state’s public schools, whether through outright exit from the profession, poaching by other states, or early retirement. That compares to about 2,245 teachers leaving for such reasons the year before, a 21 percent increase. North Carolina employed about 96,000 teachers during the 2014-2015 school year.

WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio, quoted State Superintendent June Atkinson as saying that lawmakers, who in 2014 raised the pay of new teachers to $35,000, should now do the same for veteran teachers. The state is now close to the bottom among states in teacher pay, according to U.S. data. It quoted Atkinson as saying:

“Now that we’ve done that, it really is important to look at our seasoned teachers, who have so much more to offer, and to see what we can do to keep them in the classroom.”

But it’s not just low pay that is driving some teachers from the state. It’s respect. The Citizen-Times said in an editorial:

Again and again, respect is cited when teachers explain why they’re leaving. “A big thing was just a lack of respect,” said Dan Mangum, who left Asheville Middle School for Georgia. “They don’t feel they’re given enough respect for that level of education and professionalism that they’ve exhibited,” said Macon County (14.51 percent turnover) Superintendent Chris Baldwin.