Report: Idaho Teachers Feel “Strong Undercurrent Of Despair

By Adam Cotterell

Teacher morale is low throughout Idaho. And school administrators have serious concerns about recruiting and retaining teachers. Those are some of the findings from a new study presented to lawmakers Tuesday.

Rumors of a mass exodus of teachers have been exaggerated. That’s what Lance McCleve with Idaho’s Office of Performance Evaluations says. According to his study 1,100 of the 16,000 plus Idaho teachers left their jobs last school year. That’s up just about 200 from the year before. But he says fears of a mass teacher exodus in the near future are not unfounded.

“We could see an undercurrent of despair among teachers,” McCleve says. “And this isn’t to say all teachers are having a really hard time but we did see a large proportion and responses and results from our surveys that show a large proportion of teacher that seem to perceive that there’s a climate that disparages their effort and belittles their contribution.”

Luci Willits, chief of staff to Idaho schools’ superintendent Tom Luna says it’s clear teacher morale is low.

“And I think that’s consistent when you’ve had a system that’s had financial difficulties,” Willits says. “And where we’re asking people to do more, usually with less. And it’s something that we need to look at. We obviously want workforce and employees to feel good about what they’re doing.”

Willets disagrees with critics who say Idaho teacher’s feel despair because of her department’s attempt to overhaul the state’s education system. Voters rejected that last November. She says increased compensation would go a long way to help teachers feel more valued and she says the department of education supports that.

The report shows the vast majority of principals and superintendents say their biggest obstacle to recruiting teachers is compensation. The average teacher salary in Idaho is $43,000 a year. That’s lower than five of Idaho’s six neighboring states and it takes on average more than ten years teaching to reach that level.
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