- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - A growing number of new teachers in Hawaii public schools seem to be staying in the profession.

State Department of Education data shows that 60 percent of the 785 teachers hired in 2010-11 were still employed last school year, marking the highest retention rate in at least a decade, reported The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (https://bit.ly/1Jdl79w ).

That data does not include public charter school teachers.

That five-year mark is critical because experts say it likely determines whether a teacher will stay in the field. Hawaii’s five-year retention rate had typically hovered around the national average of 50 percent but saw an uptick three years ago.

Although research shows that teaching is the most popular job in the country, the average teacher in 2012 only stayed for five years. That’s down from 15 years in the 1980s.

In Hawaii, teachers serve an average of 12 years, according to the DOE.

“One of the reasons people quit is because they’re struggling,” DOE Deputy Superintendent Stephen Schatz, a former teacher, told the Star-Advertiser. Department officials credit a mentoring program meant to provide support for beginning teachers with improving retention rates.

“I think what’s happening is teachers are feeling like part of a team,” explained Schatz. “One of the reasons teachers stay in the profession is because they’re feeling effective in their work, they’re feeling supported by their colleagues and by their principal. They feel like part of a family and feel like going to work every day.”

Still, the head of the teacher’s union says the state is losing too many teachers, with roughly one in 10 quitting, retiring or being terminated each year.

“We still don’t have enough teachers every year,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “And the reason for the high turnover is because our teachers are the worst paid in the nation. They’re teaching in hot classrooms with 30 to 40 students, and they’re being micromanaged by a faulty evaluation system.”

Nationally, the average starting teacher salary is $36,141. Under the current union contract, a newly-hired teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns a starting salary of $44,538. The highest teacher salary is capped at $81,703.

But a study conducted jointly by the DOE and the teacher’s union found that the state’s teachers, in general, earn about 4 percent less than teachers on the mainland.

DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said the study found that most professionals in Hawaii earn less than their mainland counterparts. Nevertheless, she said, the education department wants to offer competitive pay to good teachers.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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