Last year, North Carolina’s public schools employed over 95,100 full-time teachers in district schools and 3,200 full-time teachers in charter schools.

That’s one reason why stories about a handful of teachers leaving the profession should not alarm anyone.

Teachers leave the classroom every year.  Some dislike teaching.  Some leave for greener pastures in the private and non-profit sectors.  Some just aren’t very good at it. So, let’s not operate on many of the assumptions made in articles about teacher turnover.  For example, do not assume the the teacher leaving the classroom

  • was better than the teacher that replaced him or her
  • was the most productive or talented teacher ever to grace the hallways of his or her school
  • was a good fit for the school
  • was dissatisfied with only one aspect of the job, e.g., salary
  • did not have a family situation or obligation that required relocation
  • had no plans to leave the profession months or years ago
  • will not return to teaching
  • does not have a spouse that is able to support the family comfortably

Those issues aside, the statewide teacher turnover rate has been fairly steady over the last few years, despite limited salary growth.  In fact, the highest turnover rate since 2002 came during the school year that North Carolina’s average teacher salary was close to the national average.

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Keep in mind that the state counts retirement and both intra- and inter-district transfers as turnover.  In fact, only a fraction of this “turnover” could be prevented by state action.  The NC Department of Public Instruction estimates that only 24 percent of teachers leaving the profession leave for reasons that may be prevented through changes in policy or practice.

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Source for both figures: NC Department of Public Instruction, “Teacher Turnover Report, 2011-12,” September 2012.