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School Administrators More Likely to Leave Rural Districts, Report Says

Administrators in rural West Virginia schools leave their positions at rates higher than their peers in other locales, especially in districts with low enrollment numbers, according to a recent report.

The Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia studied retention, attrition, and mobility rates among teachers and administrators in West Virginia districts to determine how those rates vary depending on such factors as size and locale. The study found that across districts, teacher retention, attrition, and mobility rates were relatively similar, while administrator rates varied depending on district characteristics. Administrators in rural districts had an attrition rate of 12.4 percent, compared with about 8 percent for administrators in city schools. Administrators in districts with fewer students also moved to other districts at a higher rate than administrators in districts with larger enrollments. 

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(Source: Retention, attrition, and mobility among teachers and administrators in West Virginia

Outside of district characteristics, the report's authors found several other factors that influenced the retention, attrition, and movement of administrators. Administrators with less than four years of experience had higher mobility rates, as did administrators with doctoral degrees. Unlike teachers in many rural districts nationwide, rural teachers in West Virginia left the profession or moved to different districts at about the same rate as teachers in other district locales, like suburban schools or city schools. Teacher retention, attrition, and mobility rates tended to differ based on experience level and salary, rather than district locale.

The report sheds light on the lesser-known challenge of administrator retention and mobility. Nationwide, many rural schools often struggle with teacher recruitment and retention, and that topic is widely discussed, with states often focusing their efforts and resources on retaining teachers through loan-forgiveness programs and incentives like housing solely for teachers. The authors say the findings could be used to inform state and district policy initiatives that target administrator retention rates, especially in districts that are most vulnerable to attrition and mobility.

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