MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A report from 2010 to 2021 by the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services finds more than half of all first-time teachers in the state leave their jobs within three years of starting.

“I feel like it’s become more common than it used to be, absolutely. I just did the retention statistics last week, and 15% of our first-year teachers left,” Elmore County Public Schools Human Resources Director Susanne Goodin said.

Goodin has worked in the district in various roles for 26 years and has never seen hiring and retention issues quite like this.

“I was the principal of an elementary school for ten years and I would have 300-400 people apply for my jobs. At that same exact elementary school the principal that’s there now might have 20 if she’s lucky,” Goodin said.

Goodin says the pandemic’s negative impact on learning, too much emphasis on testing and low pay are driving some teachers out of the classroom.

She says overall they’re fortunate to be located near colleges where recent graduates are looking for jobs. Rural areas though, like in Dallas County, aren’t so lucky.

Dallas County Schools Superintendent Hattie Shelton says she used to be able to call up colleges and find new teachers. That’s not the case anymore.

“Someone else has already hired them. In most cases, there’s no one available,” Shelton said.

Shelton says they have several open positions for the fall spanning special education, English, social studies and math, but no one to fill them.

“We’re still searching, but we’re not being very successful,” Shelton said.

Shelton and Goodin say they’re optimistic that recent efforts by the state, including teacher pay raises will help improve the problem in the future.

“I can always have hope,” Shelton said.

The Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services is expected to release a new report on teacher retention in the coming weeks.