As the school year starts, some local school districts still do not have enough teachers on staff despite efforts to hire more and increase staff retention.
According to a survey of several North Texas school districts conducted by CBS News, teacher vacancy rates ranged from 1.7% in Frisco ISD to 5% in Richardson ISD.
“It’s definitely a little bit higher than we were accustomed to before the pandemic,” said Chris Goodson, Richardson ISD’s assistant superintendent over human resources.
Richardson ISD increased starting teacher pay to $57,000 and added a hiring bonus. Existing teachers are receiving a raise and retention bonus. The district also has plans to open a health clinic and a daycare facility for employees.
Still, Richardson ISD needs 140 teachers. Frisco and Lewisville ISD need 80 and 84 more teachers, respectively. Meanwhile, Dallas ISD needs at least 240 more teachers.
Godson stated that the labor pool of available teachers is not as large as it was before COVID. He further claimed that people potentially interested in the field have become more aware of how difficult being a teacher can be. Still, he said it is a rewarding profession.
Former superintendent and Texas House Representative Gary VanDeaver stressed the situation at a hearing of the Texas House Public Education Committee, explaining, “I spoke with a principal here in my district a couple weeks ago, and he says that their plan right now is to just not offer biology this year because they can’t find a teacher.”
The state has long struggled to retain teachers, who have left the field at an alarming rate, citing reasons including low pay, long hours, managing students’ needs, and curriculum concerns. Texas currently ranks 28th nationally in teacher pay.
According to WorkInTexas.com, there are nearly 10,000 job openings for teachers across Texas. Teacher shortages have become so critical that Gov. Abbott created a dedicated task force to help resolve the issue.
In Dallas ISD, the teacher turnover rate for the 2020-2021 school year was 13.8%, noticeably higher than the state average of 9.3%. While the data lags roughly a year behind, Dallas ISD could face a similar teacher shortage next year if changes made by district leaders fail to retain educators.
Furthermore, the 13.8% turnover rate does not reflect the actual number of educators who stopped teaching at Dallas ISD because the figure factors in new hires. It is unclear whether the district’s attempts to retain teachers are bearing any real fruit.
A continued teacher shortage in the district would undoubtedly compound existing issues with academic performance.
For instance, Dallas ISD’s STAAR scores for the 2020-2021 school year clocked well below the statewide average. For all grades and all subjects, only 60% of Dallas ISD students received scores of “approaches grade level,” compared to 69% in the state.
Additionally, a four-year longitudinal study following the graduating class of 2020 found that only 82.8% of the Dallas ISD students graduated high school on time, compared to a statewide rate of 90.3%.