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Hardest Teachers to Keep: Special Ed and English

Governor Daugaard contends that South Dakota needs to create special bonuses for math and science teachers in order to keep those teachers in education. However, as seems to be the case with every aspect of his destructive House Bill 1234, the Governor's proposal appears to ignore reality. In its August 2010 "Teacher Attrition and Mobility" follow-up to the 2008&ndash2009 School and Staffing Survey, the National Center for Education Statistics counts the number of public school teachers who in AY2010 stayed on the job at their school, moved to a different school, or left teaching. The results show that, at least nationally, math and science teachers are not the hardest group to retain:

SASS base year 2008-2009 Total Stayers Movers Leavers Stay% Move% Leave%
Early childhood/
general elementary
1,102,000 958,900 81,130 61,900 87.0% 7.4% 5.6%
Special education 396,500 309,100 38,790 48,600 78.0% 9.8% 12.3%
Arts/music 212,800 188,100 15,890 8,800 88.4% 7.5% 4.1%
English/language arts 418,800 342,700 32,210 43,900 81.8% 7.7% 10.5%
Mathematics 276,200 236,400 18,470 21,300 85.6% 6.7% 7.7%
Natural sciences 198,600 166,700 14,100 17,800 83.9% 7.1% 9.0%
Social sciences 214,100 180,300 17,560 16,300 84.2% 8.2% 7.6%
Other 561,300 472,700 37,510 51,100 84.2% 6.7% 9.1%
Total 3,380,300 2,854,900 255,660 269,700 84.5% 7.6% 8.0%

Source: NCES, "Teacher Attrition and Mobility," Table 2, August 2010. Numbers in italics indicate need to interpret with caution, as standard error is greater than 30% of estimate's value.

The two fields with the highest attrition rates are special education and English. Science teachers still have an above-average leave rate (but interpret with caution: high standard error!), but they are still edged in that column by "Other" teachers, which I guess from these row headings would include me and my fellow French teachers. Math teachers have a below-average leave rate.

So if we go by these national data (and the Governor's people do like to conflate national data with local conditions to justify their school-destroying agenda), If we can give incentives to keep good teachers in just two fields, we ought to be focusing our fiscal largesse on special ed and English.


  1. Steve Sibson 2012.04.04

    And Special Ed is being shoved down our throats by teh feders. Time to say no to the feds, eliminate the state DOE and return to local control.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.04

    Steve, there is a kernel of truth in your statement: the feds have added special ed requirements that have added significant costs to education, seriously impacting the shoddy calculus Daugaard has used in arguing that we should turn our funding clock back to the good old days when he went to school. However, is your suggestion that we simply abandon students with special needs?

  3. Steve Sibson 2012.04.04

    "However, is your suggestion that we simply abandon students with special needs?"

    Not at all Cory. I am saying we at the local level need to do that.

  4. Nick Nemec 2012.04.04

    How are you going to do it without money Steve?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.04

    Steve is getting ready to launch into more ideological fantasies without any practical vision of how to do the necessary work of education. I'm going to work.

  6. Steve Sibson 2012.04.04

    Nick we have money but a lot of it is going to foreigners to industrialize Ag in South Dakota. Check this out:

    Once a locally owned project, Northern Beef Packers is now 41 percent owned by businessman Oshik Song with 69 other Korean investors who each gave at least $500,000 under the federal EB-5 program that encourages foreign investment in exchange for qualifications to secure permanent residency, Swanson said.

    "There have been challenges with the plant, but things now look positive," said Joop Bollen, the executive director of the South Dakota Regional Center, part of the governor's Office of Economic Development.


    After the plant starts processing cattle, the company will be able to tap into a state economic development finance authority of between $5 million and $10 million and a guaranteed loan of as much as $20 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

  7. larry kurtz 2012.04.04

    Steve: SDDENR has been gutted, quartered, and ground into pink slime.

  8. larry kurtz 2012.04.04

    Your own mental illnesses and diminished capacity is due in large part to the neurotoxins in which you wallow.

  9. larry kurtz 2012.04.04

    Look around you, Steve: Davison County is largely other-worldly. Haven't you ever wondered why?

  10. Nick Nemec 2012.04.04

    You'll get no argument from me about the industrialization of ag. Now get that money to education.

  11. WayneB 2012.04.04

    I'm not sure I follow the syllogism that gets me to spending time and energy working to retain special ed & English teachers without a bit more data. SpEd and English may have the highest turnover, but that's only a major concern if there aren't enough new teachers graduating to replace those leaving the field. If there was a severe shortage of Art/Music teachers, that 4% leave rate would be the most troublesome.

    The other shortfall of this information is it's only a snapshot - one year of information. It's foolhardy to make inferences if we don't have good longitudinal information to back it up.

    However, it does lend credence to the school systems who mentioned they were having a tough time recruiting other specialties...


    so where are all those English majors going? Journalism and print media has been sloughing jobs... are they just joining call centers or what?

  12. Steve Sibson 2012.04.04

    Nick, be careful about agreeing with me. Mercer already thinks I am anti-Republican. What he doesn't understand is that I am pro-truth and anti-lies. I can care less about political party., and I understand that both parties are misleading the people and the media is helping in that regard.

  13. Nick Nemec 2012.04.04

    Steve, I agree with you on some stuff and disagree on other stuff. Mercer has a clear establishment Republican party line bias, and like most people with an obvious bias is unwilling to admit it.

  14. larry kurtz 2012.04.04

    Why aren't you running in the Libertarian Party, Steve?

  15. Steve Sibson 2012.04.04

    Nick, Mercer's bias is obvious to those of us in the know. Sad that most of his readers don't have a clue.

    Larry, because I am running in the Republican party whose platform is libertarian. The SDGOP Establishment is not following it. Instead they are following a fascist based agenda where government gets bigger to consolidate the wealth by regulating the little guys out of business. If you read the link I provided above you will also see how, "he who provides the most jobs gets the most government welfare." That too causes wealth consolidation. Wonder if Mercer understands any of this stuff?

  16. Steve Sibson 2012.04.04

    We now know Larry doesn't understand. Set down the New Age Kool Aid Larry.

  17. tonyamert 2012.04.04

    I believe that the talking point logic is->

    Economy is bad->It's because we're bad at math and science->Therefore math and science teachers must be bad->conclusion: freemarket says to solve the problem with should give math/science teachers more money than other teachers.

    Obviously all kinds of holes and implicit assumptions going on to get to their conclusion, but I don't think the logic line includes anything about not being able to retain math/science teachers. It's just that our logic implicitly assumes that the ones we have are bad.

  18. Steve Sibson 2012.04.04

    Economy is bad->It’s because it is centrally planned->Therefore the centrally planned global economy is a mistake->conclusion: freemarket says to solve the problem by letting consumers determine what is produced, where, and by whom, not government.

  19. larry kurtz 2012.04.04

    ->make Deadwood cannabis friendly zone->revenue to education->SDGOP collapses->South Dakota emerges from red state failure.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.04

    Steve, how I tire of your hammering every specific policy issue back into your dreadful and simplistic generalizations. Would you be content if I just appended to every post here an initial comment reading "Sounds like more New Age Theology rammed down our throats by globalizing central planners; let the free market solve!"? That would pretty much cover everything you've said here in the last year.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.04

    Wayne, again, I find myself struggling with the lack of logic offered by my opponents. To argue with Gov. Daugaard and proponents of HB 1234 on their own turf, I have to wade into all sorts of bad policy assumptions that make me sound illogical. Their justification for picking math and science over all other subjects has little more substance than Tony's brief summary. How do we know that math and science are our weak areas? How do we know our weaknesses aren't critical thinking and communication skills? How do we know our problem isn't more rigorous civics training to train more effective political leaders and eagerly participating citizens to craft better education and economic policy?

  22. WayneB 2012.04.04

    I don't know either... but if our Republican Governor is repeating the mantra of our Democratic President about the need for more math, science, and tech educators... can it all just be political posturing?

    Maybe we students of the liberal arts are just too espoused to our educations and our belief of their general applicability... I'm finding in my job that my knowledge of computers and how software thinks is much more valuable than my general writing ability (though the fact that it's above par doesn't hurt one iota). My ability to read and interpret research, create maps using geographic information systems, manipulate data, etc. all generates the compliments that get me the raises.

    But that's anecdotal. ;-)

    Both sides acknowledge the growing importance of STEM for our future. If South Dakota wants to really excel in the next couple decades, it'd behoove us to create a more educated populace - technically competent and ready to work in the fields that will be in the highest demand and command the best wages. Better yet, if we can have that kind of workforce coming out of our tech schools and universities, we could attract top notch research facilities, grow our universities to be more like the UofM and State University of Iowa... dream big here.

    If we accept that premise, then the argument above is moot - who cares what kinds of teachers are moving or leaving, so long as we have a high number of qualified STEM graduates so we can attract awesome research facilities?

    We need to see if it's possible to divorce STEM promotion from comprehensive education reform. If we can't, then it's gonna be a heckuva hack job to accomplish.

  23. grudznick 2012.04.04

    I wish my good friend Mr. Sibby would make a pamphlet for me to distribute to the people at the Conservatives with Common Sense breakfasts. We have almost had to ban disscusion on his odd views because nobody can seem to define them. A pamphlet would be handy for some of us, Mr. Sibby. Or perhaps you would visit us and speak? We have a small chapter in Mitchell, or when you're serving next year in Pierre you could visit our chapter in Murdo.

  24. tonyamert 2012.04.05

    Wayne- it's all posturing. There is no great shortage of STEM people. You can just look at salary information regarding it. STEM wages have declined year over year for more than the last 20 years.

    Also, most of the major "tech" companies are rapidly diversifying into the financial fields. I'm sure you've heard the GE Capital commercials on TV. Other tech giants now have similar wings. The sociopaths in charge have figured out that if you dump all your money into financial instruments it looks good on paper for a few years. They loot the company with their bonuses and then bail leaving the tech firm with antiquated equipment and a bunch of MBAs that can't actually produce anything. Rinse and repeat.

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