This year, challenges in staffing America’s public schools have erupted onto the front page of newspapers across the country. Sources as varied as the New York Times, Fox News, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Enterprise Institute have all reported on the crisis in the teaching profession. Districts across the country are reporting unprecedented staffing shortages as schools begin the long process of recovering from the pandemic. Locally, there are similar reports of RI schools facing teacher shortages and high number of vacancies at the start of the school year.
However, as we look at the data from the past year, the overall picture is somewhat more mixed. It is clear that classroom teaching vacancies in Providence Public School District (PPSD) remain quite high and that teacher retention rates have fallen during the pandemic and state intervention. However, unlike in many other districts across the country, the number of classroom teaching vacancies was not unprecedented this year. And the number of teachers who have left the classroom has only ticked up slightly from 2021.
While staffing classrooms remains a critical challenge and efforts to retain effective teachers are critical to the turnaround effort, we have not seen a mass exodus in Providence. If anything, teacher retention in Providence still remains reasonably high compared to other large urban districts. That said, the persistent classroom vacancies present an ongoing and stubborn challenge for the district to solve. Here, teacher hiring appears to be a key contributing factor, as Providence continues to attract relatively few applicants to teaching positions.