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Report gives insight into reasons S.C. teachers are leaving their jobs

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 6:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A report from last fall compiled results of teacher exit surveys to determine why some 6,000 South Carolina teachers left their jobs.

That exodus of teachers continued a teacher shortage that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the big findings is that while teachers are leaving their jobs, they are not necessarily leaving the teaching profession. About half of those who took the survey at the end of the last school year say they took another teaching job in the state. The other half left for another profession or to retire.

“Right now, it’s a teacher’s market,” South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said. “So you can shop around to look for class size or better classes or better retirement.”

East says she wasn’t surprised by the results, which came from an exit survey from SC TEACHER, a group that’s studying teacher recruitment and retention. More than 220 teachers took the exit survey as they were leaving their jobs in five school districts in the Midlands.

Teachers most frequently said that moving or wanting a job more conveniently located was the most important reason for leaving their jobs. That was followed by retirement and dissatisfaction with their school administration.

The survey also asked teachers for reasons they were leaving specifically related to the pandemic. Nearly 40 percent of them said a lack of support from their local school board was very or extremely important to their decision to leave. Not far behind, others cited concerns about their effectiveness and a lack of support from the broader community.

“About COVID, it exacerbated some frustrations that were already there,” University of South Carolina College of Education Interim Dean Dr. Tommy Hodges said. “You’re already looking at teachers that were maybe a little bit burned out, and so we see the emotional burnout of teachers really being exacerbated by COVID.”

That survey also asked teachers about emotional distress on the job. More than half the teachers who responded said that all or most of the time, they felt used up by the end of the day or emotionally drained by their work.

The survey also found that teachers with five years’ experience or less say they were more stressed by their work than those with more experience.

But those teachers with more experience say they left their jobs because they were concerned about health and safety, moreso than less-experienced teachers.

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