The agency's data also shows an increase in the number of individuals seeking an alternative, quicker route to certification in Idaho instead of attending a traditional four-year education program offered through a college or university.
More than 957 of the 1,884 teachers who left the profession during the 2011-2012 school year cited "personal reasons." The departures increased significantly from the previous year, when 1,276 teachers left the profession, and the year before, when 716 exited.
While the data shows there were about 150 fewer Idaho certified teachers last year compared to the previous year, the department said the number of certificated employees in the state's public school system overall, when including positions such as school counselors and principals, has remained relatively unchanged. There were 17,851 certificated individuals working in Idaho's schools last year, compared to 17,915 the previous year.
The Idaho Education Association requested the data from the department, which then released the numbers to reporters. Last year, the statewide teachers union attributed the increased exits to new education reforms that limited collective bargaining and eliminated job protections.
The group is concerned that more teachers are leaving the profession at such a rapid rate, IEA President Penni Cyr said Friday.
"We are losing an unacceptably high number of experienced teachers," said Cyr, who reiterated her organization's stance that the sweeping education overhaul approved in 2011 is making Idaho unattractive to educators. "If we continue to silence teachers' voices and impose one-size-fits-all mandates, the best and brightest teachers will be discouraged from working in the schools that need them most."
Public schools chief Tom Luna has countered that his education changes, which are subject to voter approval in November, weren't to blame for the jump in departures. He has said the recession was more likely the culprit for why more teachers were ditching the profession.
Luna's office maintained that argument for the latest data, saying the biggest reported increase in the number of teachers leaving the profession was during the 2010-2011 school year, when 1,300 teachers exited the profession. That was up 600 from the previous year.
The latest data shows an increase of 560 leaving the profession during the 2011-2012 academic year.
"It's clear that when you look at the data over the course of the past few years, this has more to do with economic recession than with education reforms," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath.
With more teachers leaving, Luna's department highlighted the increase in the number of teaching certificates being issued. The data shows the state issued 1,433 teaching certificates last year, compared to 1,138 in the previous year.
The increase comes as more seek an alternative route to certification offered by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, according to the data. The ABCTE allows individuals who have a bachelor's degree in different field, and likely worked in another area, to obtain their teaching certification through an accelerated program.
These individuals work in a public school with provisional certification for two years before they are fully certified, McGrath said. The data shows more than 570 teachers earned certification through the ABCTE route last year, compared to 367 during the previous year.