Teachers left Carroll County Public Schools at the end of last school year at the highest rate since 2011, and while school officials are alarmed by the exodus, they are equally concerned about who is replacing the fleeing educators.
Prior to the start of the school year, 208 teachers — 9.51 percent of the total teachers — departed from the Carroll County school system, according to data provided by the school system.
According to a recent study by the National Commission of Teaching and America's Future, a research organization working to ensure quality teaching in schools through teacher prep and community engagement, the teacher attrition problem costs the U.S. more than $7 billion annually.
NCTAF has calculated teacher attrition, which increased 50 percent over the last 15 years, to be greater than the student drop-out problem.
"As a result of high turnover, high-need urban and rural schools are frequently staffed with inequitable concentrations of under-prepared, inexperienced teachers who are left to labor on their own to meet the needs of their students," according to the study.
At a recent Carroll County Board of Education meeting, schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said that while he is concerned about the number of teachers leaving the school system, he believes it is manageable.
But, he's also concerned that the school system is not attracting enough experienced teachers to replace them.
According to Guthrie, the school system released a report in February that shows that 67 percent of the school system's teachers were first-year teachers.
"Because our salary schedule is not being competitive — not only at the top of the scale, but throughout the whole scale at every level — we are receiving less and less teachers coming in with experience, and hiring more and more teachers right out of college," he said.
The school system, like other employers, wants the bulk of its teachers to be further into their careers, Guthrie said, and not too many new teachers or teachers who could leave the school system at any time.
The goal, Guthrie said, is to have 75 percent of their teachers at a point where they are going to stay with the school system.
To begin to address the issue, Guthrie said the school system and Carroll County Education Association reached a three-year agreement, which included a 2.5 percent cost of living increase and a 1 percent bonus for the 2015-2016 school year.
"It is a concern to us, and it's a concern that will continue until we make significant improvements with our competitive salaries," Guthrie said.
Who is leaving?
The teacher attrition rate has surpassed about 6 percent for the past six years, and this year's rate was 1.57 percentage points higher than the previous year.
The newly hired crop of teachers is nearly 84 percent female and 93 percent white.
According to Saylor, the school system hires more female teachers because education programs tend to have more women.
The bulk of new hires were in elementary schools with 31 replacements made, which she said typically has the highest turnover rate annually.
The school system also made 21 hires for special education teachers, which Saylor said was a high turnover rate compared to previous years.
The school system was also surprised to have to replace 15 math teachers and 13 social studies teachers, which is a higher turnover than the annual average, she said.
Who was not?
During the hiring period for the 2014-2015 school year, 32 candidates declined an offer of employment.
The majority of those offers that were declined were special education teaching positions. Eleven of those offers made were declined.
The bulk of the other offers that were declined were in English and social studies, with four each.
Candidates also declined offers for teaching positions in foreign language, math, speech, technology education, family and consumer sciences, elementary education, business education, prekindergarten, and music.
What it will cost
The majority of teachers hired this school year were brand new to teaching.
Of the newly hired teachers, nearly 63 percent were hired on the first step of the salary scale, meaning they were new teachers who had recently graduated and without any previous teaching experience. The new teachers will cost the school system a total of $6.5 million this year.