If you know a teacher or two, this probably comes as no surprise. But the number of teachers leaving the profession is at an all-time high. This was confirmed in a recent report released by the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.
Their report on the Pandemic Impact on Public K-12 Education notes, “Virginia has more teachers leaving the workforce than newly licensed teachers entering it.” This increased attrition rate leaves our schools desperate to fill the gaps.
Virginia state leaders have an opportunity in the coming weeks to get behind a program that’s turning the tide on teacher attrition one school system at a time.
A bi-partisan budget amendment is being introduced by Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27) and Del. David Reid (D-32) during the General Assembly session that kicks off this week. The amendment, which requests $630,000 for one year of funding, would sustain and expand a well-established teacher mentoring and retention program called Reach Virginia.
Reach Virginia serves 25 school systems by providing comprehensive support for teachers in their first three years. It gives HR departments — from as large as Fairfax County Public Schools to as small as Amelia County Public Schools — resources and a network to learn best practices for helping their teaching workforce feel supported and equipped to continue their life-changing work in the classroom.
An independent program assessment shows new teacher retention in participating Reach Virginia school divisions rose 15 percent over seven years. Additional data demonstrate increases in mentor capacity building skills and mentee growth in knowledge and abilities.
For several years, Reach Virginia was funded through philanthropic funds, but we’re finding that it’s getting more difficult to sustain it solely through donations. After meeting with delegates, state senators, public school superintendents, HR leads, and school board members, there is broad consensus that Reach Virginia should be sustained at the state level.
The state funding would not only ensure the support remains in the 25 school systems, but it would expand Reach to be offered to every school system in Virginia. If the funding is approved, it will be the first time that public schools statewide have a resource to successfully implement a teacher mentoring program that’s mandated by the Code of Virginia § 22.1-305.
Instead of all 132 Virginia school systems funding and creating their own mentoring program, we encourage state leaders to get behind a less expensive model that’s already proven effective. Consider reaching out to other state representatives to express your support for our teachers.