Staff Attrition from Pennsylvania Public Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Five percent of staff working in Pennsylvania local education agencies (LEAs) in fall 2020 left the statewide public school sector by fall 2021, an increase from 4 percent attrition in preceding years.
- Pre-pandemic attrition rates for staff of color were generally higher than for non-Hispanic White staff, and these differences grew during the pandemic except for school administrators, where they narrowed.
- Gaps in attrition rates were also exacerbated during the pandemic for teachers and health and counseling staff early in their careers and in charter schools and for LEA administrators in large LEAs.
- Remote learning was not associated with increased attrition among elementary school teachers.
The COVID-19 pandemic raised concerns about the possibility of increased staff attrition from the public school sector, as it did for other occupations during the Great Resignation that followed the pandemic’s onset. Recruiting and retaining education staff were pressing challenges even before the pandemic began. Since March 2020, education staff have needed to adapt to new job expectations and risk exposure to an unknown virus. These factors might have contributed to staff leaving public education jobs due to mental and physical health concerns and other issues. This brief describes annual rates of staff leaving the statewide public school sector from several jobs—including teachers, health and counseling staff, school administrators, and LEA administrators—and how changes in attrition during the pandemic varied with staff, school, and LEA characteristics. The findings can inform staff retention efforts, consistent with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE’s) Pennsylvania Educator Workforce Strategy to strengthen the workforce by 2025 to help students recover from the pandemic.