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3 Reasons Why It’s Tough to Teach in West Virginia (and These Other States)

Topics: Current Events

There are a lot of wonderful things about being a teacher, but it’s a really difficult job, too. It’s a profession that’s immensely rewarding and immeasurably challenging all at once, each and every day. It’s a job that’s always changing – new students, new culture, new curriculum. The pay is relatively low, when measured against what other comparably trained professionals earn, and the hours are very long. (Yes, even when you consider the summer, despite what you might have heard.)


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But, some teaching jobs might be more difficult than others. Recently, WalletHub released their list of the best and worst states for teachers for 2015. They utilized 13 different metrics to rank all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. This year, West Virginia was dubbed the worst state in the union to be a teacher, after
Arizona and North Carolina. The previous year, North Carolina took that spot and West Virginia came in 49th out of 51. A few data points shifted things around slightly, but many of the states toward the bottom, and the top, of the list look relatively similar to years prior.

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It’s essential to note that teachers in these states are just as in love with the profession as they are anywhere else, and they’re equally as committed. It’s just that they might have to work even harder than they would in other places, and additional factors compound the difficulty of the job of teaching in ways that are worth noting.

West Virginia teachers, and all teachers, deserve respect, fair pay, and conditions that are conducive to performing their jobs to the best of their ability. No doubt there are plenty of dedicated people working to improve things for their educators and students in this and other low-ranking states. For now though, it might be a little extra tough to teach in West Virginia in 2015. Let’s take a closer look at a few reasons why this could be the case.

1. Low salaries.

West Virginia came in 47th for lowest annual salaries (adjusted for cost of living), but how much worse is the compensation there than in other states? According to NEA data, the average teacher salary in West Virginia was around $47,000 during the 2013-2014 school year. Comparing this with New York’s compensation, where teachers earned almost $79,000, highlights the discrepancy.

Teaching is hard enough without knowing you could make 30 percent more somewhere else. Even more importantly, it seems reasonable that educators should be able to teach without taking on a second or even a third job just to make ends meet, as so many educators do.

2. The school systems.

One of the metrics WalletHub analyzed was something they dubbed “School Systems” Ranking. This list was based on another 13-point system of metrics that examined things like dropout rate, student-to-teacher ratios, and test scores. West Virginia came out 44th in their list of worst/best school system overall, and the state’s “school-system quality” rank was 46 out of 51.

Attracting great teachers to struggling schools is difficult, but filling these positions with motivated and highly trained teachers is essential in order to improve the quality of the education students receive. West Virginia teachers should be applauded for doing this tough and important work. Providing educators with the resources they need to serve in struggling schools should be the first priority for districts, and states, that are trying to turn things around.

3. Challenging factors lead to high turnover.

Through their analysis, WalletHub pinpointed some common struggles facing West Virginia teachers. The state ranked dead last in “Job Opportunity and Competition” thanks to a lot of weight being given to factors such as unemployment, and income growth potential. In general, low salaries that don’t budge (at least, not by much) is a big problem for those working in the field of education.

Veteran teachers in every state are tired of still being broke after years on the job. Other challenging factors mentioned here make the dim pay increases, year after year, sting a little more. Sometimes, it’s too much for good teachers to take on, and they opt, often with a broken heart, to leave the profession.

All of the accompanying frustrations of teaching can lead to high turnover rates. Pressure to raise test scores, low wages, and challenging working conditions make a tough job even tougher, and a lot of teachers move on to other things after a time. Nationally, between 40 to 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years, and the attrition rate of first-year teachers has increased by about one-third in the last two decades.

High turnover creates a lot of difficulties, in any industry, and teaching is no exception. In West Virginia, the art and science of teaching is a little extra challenging, and high attrition rates are something they’re working to solve. Many factors contribute to the problem though, and until sweeping changes are made to salary, testing, working conditions, etc., West Virginia, and other states that often find their way onto the bottom of lists like this, will likely remain one of the worst states to be a teacher.

Check out the full list of 2015’s best and worst states for teachers for more information.

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