As districts push to fill their open teaching positions before school starts, they emphasize different plans to retain the teachers they already have.
The retention rate, which measures how many teachers remain at the same school from year to year, is listed for every school and district in Idaho on the State Department of Education report cards and was gathered into a database by Idaho Education News last week.
Last year, 84 percent of teachers in Idaho stayed with their district between years. That keeps Idaho in line with the national average and marks a minor increase from the rate over the previous two years.
Both districts in the Idaho Falls area were just below the state average, with Idaho Falls School District 91 keeping 83.9 percent of teachers last year and Bonneville Joint School District 93 sitting at just over 80 percent.
In 2017, more than a third of the teachers at Bonneville Technical Careers High School left for other jobs. A year later, Technical Careers was one of the only schools in eastern Idaho to have 100 percent retention for its staff. Principal Lyndon Oswald said that across the district, highly-skilled jobs such as physics teachers and technical experts were tougher to fill because of the competition from other companies.
“It can be hard to get teachers because they can make double the money by staying in their industry. Usually, once I get a good teacher they stay here,” Oswald said.
District 93 held a job fair on Monday to fill in some of the job openings in its cafeterias and classrooms by August. Oswald explained that the district offers a $5,000 bonus for people in hard-to-fill positions, which range from school nurses to automotive teachers.
In District 91, the retention at individual schools last year ranged from just under 74 percent at Ethel Boyes Elementary School to 92 percent at Linden Park Elementary School.
Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Kelly Coughenour said the focus is heavier on the programs that help new teachers get accustomed to the district after they begin working. There is a two-day New Teacher Induction program in August that connects the new arrivals with resources and a mentorship program that offers support over the first two years in the district.
“The mentors provide the needed support or find help in getting them the support they need,” Coughenour said.
Some errors do appear to exist with the numbers gathered by the Department of Education. The report card lists Independence Alternative High School in Blackfoot as having 0 percent retention in 2018. District personnel manager JaNae Smith said that the only changes she knew of at Independence were two teachers who had retired in May and the district would look into the listing.