New study gives Hawaii poor marks for teacher retention - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New study gives Hawaii poor marks for teacher retention

(Image: Hawaii News Now/File) (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A new survey gives Hawaii a poor grade for attracting and keeping teachers, and some say it understates the problems.

The Learning Policy Institute, a nonpartisan thinktank, gave the state a 2.75 "teaching attractiveness rating" out of a possible 5 points. The ranking considered such factors as pay, working conditions, teacher qualifications, and teacher turnover.

Social studies teacher Amy Perruso thinks the conclusions for Hawaii overlook some key issues teachers face.

"I don't think that Hawaii is as attractive as that study suggests," she said.

The nationwide survey, for example, puts the starting teacher salary in Hawaii at $5,000 above the national average. But it doesn't factor in Hawaii's high cost of living.

"If you look at similar districts with similar costs of living, we are at the bottom, the very bottom," she said.

The study also said 81 percent of Hawaii's teachers feel they have control in the classroom over planning, class materials and teaching techniques. But the finding is based on numbers from 2012.

"Even in the past four years a great deal has changed," Perruso said. "We've lost a lot of autonomy.  And a lot of teachers will tell you the evaluation system and the loss of autonomy are critical factors."

Hawaii struggles perennially with teacher shortages, and started this school year 625 teachers shy of the total number needed.

Donald Young, dean of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's College of Education, said it's getting tougher to attract students to a teaching career.

"In some cases, at least, they are being discouraged by parents, other teachers and so forth. It's a difficult time in education right now," he said.

Young said UH is trying to recruit students from other majors to double major in education. The department also hopes for more state funding for scholarships to entice students to pursue teaching. 

The national study said Hawaii is doing worse than many states in retaining teachers.

Perruso says that's one area the analysis got right. 

"We have to have better pay. We have to have better benefits. We have to really change the evaluation system so that it supports and encourages teachers rather than punishing teachers," she said.

This year, the state Department of Education held recruitment drives in seven mainland cities as part of a push to attract new teachers.

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