By the numbers
Teacher attrition rates at Moffat County School District
• Yearly average: About 10 percent
• 2007-08 school year: 24 licensed staff, or 15 percent
Craig Drew Morris, Craig Middle School eighth-grade social studies teacher, said there are some things that can't be taught in a college classroom.
Morris learned that lesson for himself this year as a new teacher.
"Some things you just couldn't be prepared for," he said.
Still, Morris said he plans to stick with teaching in the Moffat County School District next year.
"I like what I do," he said. "It can't get worse.
"It can only get better."
Other teachers in the school district made a different choice.
During the 2007-08 school year, 24 teachers and other licensed staff left their positions in the school district, creating about a 15 percent attrition rate, Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said.
That's about a five-percent increase from the school district's average attrition rate in recent years.
"We generally turn over 10 percent of our teachers per year," Sheridan said, adding that most teachers leave the district for retirement.
The problem: New teachers aren't coming into the district as quickly as retiring teachers are leaving it.
"There's not enough people going into the field of education to fill all the slots we need," Sheridan said.
It's not that the vacant slots aren't filled by the time school begins again in the fall.
"We always fill them," Sheridan said.
Rather, the concern is finding teachers who carry the experience and credentials the school district seeks in new candidates.
"It's a matter of how highly qualified" the new teachers are, Sheridan said. "Obviously, you'd want someone with 20 years experience and a master's degree."
However, a lack of applicants sometimes requires the school district to hire a less-qualified candidate, Sheridan said, including those who have taken the minimal amount of college coursework in their licensed area.
"We just do the best we can with filling the slots," he said.
Sheridan said he believes several factors influence why more college graduates aren't entering the education field.
"I think we have fewer people wanting extracurricular" responsibilities, including coaching, he said.
A teacher's average yearly pay may also discourage some graduates from becoming teachers.
"Obviously, it's not the highest paying position that people can reach," Sheridan said.
"We're certainly not attracting new ones to the profession because of" the annual wage, he said.
According to the Colorado Department of Education, teacher salaries in Moffat County averaged about $45,000 in 2006.
In contrast, a dental hygienist in Colorado may enter his or her career with an entry-level wage of about $61,000, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
In recent years, teacher attrition has garnered the attention of state education officials.
The Alliance for Quality Teaching, a state group, recently released a study investigating possible reasons why some teachers decide to leave the profession.
The study named teaching salaries and employment opportunities available outside of the education field as reasons why teachers walk away from the classroom.
The study also reported teacher attrition rates are usually highest at the beginning and end of a teacher's career.
Research indicates other districts across the state are facing teacher attrition rates close to those found in Moffat County.
Between 1998 and 2004, the state teacher attrition rate has ranged from 14 percent to 16 percent, the study reported.
Those figures eventually have an impact in the classroom.
"Districts and schools with relatively high rates of teacher attrition are likely to have more inexperienced teachers and, as a result, instructional quality and student learning suffer," the study reported.