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State hopes to keep teachers around by asking them why they leave

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Responses are already rolling in to the first statewide Educator Mobility Survey, according to the state Department of Education. The survey asks educators about factors that led to their decision to move on from a school, a district, the state—or even the profession.


Shannon Holston, director of Educational Effectiveness at the Department of Ed, says the survey is an effort to stabilize Delaware’s educator workforce.

“Some schools or geographic regions continue to see more churn,” she said. “So we’re trying to unpack and get some hard data into why that’s happening. We have some of the hard numbers. But we’re hoping this data helps us unpack the ‘why’ to address recruitment and retention.”

Holston says “high-needs” schools and those in western Sussex County tend to struggle the most with staffing. High school math and science, foreign language, English Language Learners and special education teaching positions remain the most challenging for districts to fill.

Holston adds that Delaware’s proximity to other states in the Mid-Atlantic region means First State districts may be competing with those in other states for educators.

“So one thing we also want to see—is there a different strategy [for retention] if people are leaving the profession versus leaving to teach somewhere else, perhaps?” she said. “Or, what is drawing them to other places? We also ask, is there something that would have made you stay?”


“I think we have some anecdotal information [about] why we think people are leaving,” said Associate Secretary of Education Jon Neubauer. “It’s the big ticket items … like are they getting enough support to meet the needs of students. Certainly we’ve heard there’s a salary issue for some of these folks … but these again are all kind of anecdotal things.”

The Department of Ed plans to craft strategies for educator recruitment and retention based on results of the educator mobility survey — and make local data available to districts and charter schools.

Results are expected to be released early next year.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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