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Hawaiʻi teacher retention rate hovers just above 50%

Teacher meditates on her classroom desk.
Vivian Shih for NPR

HONOLULU — Only 51% of Hawaiʻi public school teachers remained on the job after five years of work, according to a new report from the state Department of Education.

The low percentage is little changed from recent years. The department had aimed to raise its retention rate to 60% by 2020.

Retaining qualified and effective teachers for the long term is important, according to the report released Thursday, because students benefit from higher-quality education as teachers gain experience and expertise. The department also has to spend less time and money on recruiting new hires when retention is higher.

Osa Tui Jr., president of the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association, said he worries retention rates will decline further because of the unprecedented challenges teachers are facing in the pandemic.

“More and more, our students are not going to have access to high-quality educators who are going to stay in the field,” he said.

Tui pointed to low pay as a large part of the problem.

The average Hawaiʻi teacher earned an average of $65,409 in 2020-21, according to the National Education Association. That's slightly above the national average of $65,090, but Hawaiʻi teachers face a higher cost of living.

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