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2022-23 Teacher Attrition Data Indicates Need for More Beginning Teacher Support



Trends in teacher attrition and vacancy rates in North Carolina public schools indicate a need for targeted and differentiated beginning teacher support, according to the annual State of the Teaching Profession Report presented to the State Board of Education today.


The report, which is mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly, measured attrition and vacancies between March 2022 and March 2023.


Attrition was 11.5% for the 2022-23 school year, up from 7.8% in 2021-22. Beginning teachers, defined as those in their first three years, have a higher attrition rate than their more experienced peers at 15.1%. As shared in today’s presentation, North Carolina’s increase in attrition mirrors national trends yet still remains lower than projections for the national average.


The vacancy rate – calculated based on the number of positions not filled by a fully licensed, permanent employee – was 6.4% in 2022-23, compared to 5.9% in 2021-22. Context from the presentation shows that North Carolina’s vacancy rate is lower than other public sectors, including in North Carolina state government.


The report also showed that more North Carolina educators are coming into the profession from alternative licensure routes, meaning they may have been employed in other professions and decided to enter the teaching profession as a second career. These individuals could also be educators that completed an undergraduate degree and then decided afterwards to enter the teaching profession. This pathway has increased about 23% since 2017, which is significant.


“These trends highlight the importance of providing enhanced support for early-career educators, including those who enter the profession through the residency license pipeline,” said State Superintendent Catherine Truitt. “With nearly half of new teachers coming to us through alternative teacher preparation programs, we need to take a close look at how to better differentiate supports for those educators. I will continue to recommend that that the state consider redesigning its teacher licensure and compensation system so that beginning teacher support is embedded earlier and systematically throughout a teacher’s career.”


Reclassifying Vacancy

State legislators broadened the definition of a vacancy for the 2021-22 academic year and beyond to include positions filled by teachers who are provisionally licensed and rehired retirees.


In his presentation to the state board, Dr. Tom Tomberlin – senior director of educator preparation, licensure and performance at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) – said the increase in vacancies over the last two years is a result of school districts working diligently to comply with the new definition.


Under the old vacancy model, the 6.4% vacancy rate for 2022-23 would be 3.7% or lower.

“It’s important to note that a vacancy does not equal a classroom with no teacher,” Tomberlin said. “More than half of these positions are filled by fully licensed educators who, based on the legislative definition, we must count as a vacancy. Because of the change in statute to define vacancies, directly comparing vacancy rates to prior years is no longer valid.”


Contextualizing Attrition

North Carolina’s teacher attrition rate remains below the national average, which is estimated to be about 12% for the 2022-23 school year. As Tomberlin shared during his presentation, North Carolina’s trend in attrition and vacancies are consistently lower than what other industries nationwide have experienced.


Educators leave the profession at a significantly lower rate than other North Carolina state employees, who have similar benefits and whose salaries are also set by the North Carolina General Assembly. Their turnover rate is 16.8%, according to a March 2023 report from the Office of State Human Resources.


Schools are also hiring more teachers than they lose. In fall 2023, 11,023 educators were hired after 10,373 attrited in the previous school year. The replenishment rate has averaged 122.8% over the past six school years.


“It’s encouraging to see that so many people are interested in and excited about working in North Carolina public schools,” Tomberlin said. “Year after year, school and district leaders do an excellent job of recruiting teachers to make sure all student needs are met.”


A Shifting Teacher Pipeline 

The number of new teachers entering classrooms under alternative licensure routes has increased by 23.3% since the 2017-18 school year and now makes up nearly half of all new educators in the state.


In his presentation to the state board, Tomberlin said this pipeline to becoming a highly qualified educator is “leaky.” Of the 2,547 teachers issued a permit to teach in the 2018-19 school year, approximately 55% converted to a residency license by 2020-21.

For emergency licenses, of 1,427 issued in 2018-19, only 34% converted to a residency license by 2020-21.


Tomberlin said the answer to fixing this leak may lie in enhancing beginning teacher support efforts.


Local Education Agencies (LEAs) reported 13,169 beginning teachers for the 2021-22 school year. But an NCDPI analysis of state payroll and licensure records found 15,621 individuals with fewer than three years' experience.


In the Teacher Working Conditions Survey for that year, 14,387 educators self-identified as beginning teachers. Of those, 6% reported they had not been assigned a mentor and 17.8% said they were not provided additional support for being a beginning teacher.


"This data suggests not all teachers who are in their first three years of the profession are receiving the benefit of beginning teacher support programs,” Tomberlin said. “Our beginning teachers need targeted support, including evidenced-based professional development, individualized coaching and meaningful opportunities to engage with their most effective colleagues.”


View the full State of the Teaching Profession Report here. A dashboard that includes data for each LEA is available here.

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