Report finds 4 in 10 new Wisconsin teachers leave the profession or state within 6 years - TAI News
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A new report from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction shows the state still has a massive problem with teacher retention.

The report, released April 11, analyzes data from the 2021-2022 school year. It says that while Wisconsin is more successful than surrounding states in attracting teachers to public schools, and the state is preparing and licensing more teachers than are retiring, the educator workforce still faces a massive challenge: actually keeping those teachers working long-term.

According to the report, Wisconsin loses educators at two key junctures: when they complete teaching credential programs and during their first few years working as teachers.

During the 2021-2022 school year, just over 5,000 students completed an educator preparation program, the DPI says, but only about 4,000 of those students became licensed to teach — and just 3,400 of them actually were ultimately employed in a Wisconsin public school.

Of those who do become teachers after completing their programs, about 40% leave either the profession or the state within their first six years on the job.

“This report shows what we’ve known for some time now: Our education workforce is in crisis,” State Superintendent Jill Underly said in a press release. “Wisconsin’s kids are suffering from losing quality teachers. Solving this challenge starts with upholding the state’s responsibility of funding our public schools. We have the resources, and we owe it to our kids to do more.”

One of the possible causes, the report says, is that teachers’ average compensation in Wisconsin has dropped 19% in the last 14 years when adjusted for inflation. In a voluntary survey the DPI conducted of school districts in fall 2023, compensation was one of the reasons that districts cited for educators leaving their jobs after the 2022-2023 school year.

Average earnings for Wisconsin teachers dropped below the average salary for bachelor’s degree holders in Wisconsin after 2020, according to data in the report. In 2022, the median salary for a teacher in Wisconsin was a little more than $57,000.

The staggering number of educators leaving the profession within the first few years of joining it leaves the state continually grappling with how to replace them.

According to the DPI, most districts that responded to its survey indicated they had few applicants for vacant teaching positions. Schools reported that they typically dealt with vacancies by employing substitute teachers with short-term teaching licenses and hiring teachers who did not meet their preferred standards.

During the 2021-2022 school year, the DPI issued about 3,300 short-term teaching licenses to educators who had not met full requirements for the subjects they were teaching. 

“Educating our future leaders is an incredible responsibility, and we are failing students and families,” Underly said in the press release. “It’s shocking we’ve allowed teacher compensation to decline in real terms. Not only do our teachers need to be paid appropriately, but they need to be respected and supported by our communities. Under my leadership, the DPI will continue fighting for our students, our families, our educators, and our public schools.”

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The Wisconsin Independent is a project of American Independent Media, a 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to use journalism to educate the public, giving them the information they need about local and federal issues.