Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Do They Leave?

From the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
The revival of a push for the regulation of hundreds of teacher education programs was announced today by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Duncan's plan relies on the false assumption that teachers are leaving the profession due to poor teacher preparation programs. He appears to be relying on anecdotal evidence for this assumption:
"Virtually every school I go to, I ask teachers whether they were prepared when they first entered the school or the profession," Duncan said. "There's often a good deal of nervous laughter," he said, before teachers confess that they were nowhere near ready for the job. (Politico, April 25, 2014)
Duncan is either drawing the wrong conclusion from these exchanges, or not asking the right follow-up question--what was missing? Extensive research points to the problem, and it's NOT because teacher preparation programs haven't prepared new teachers. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a comprehensive report in March 2014, Beginners in the Classroom: What the Changing Demographics of Teaching Mean for Schools, Students, and Society that addresses the question of "why do they leave?"

According to this report, "a raft of research points to the problem". The references for this body of research can be found in the report itself, so I won't list them here.

Here are some key quotes:
"It's not money, or a lack of it, that's causing most teachers to leave. Rather, the primary driver of the exodus of early-career teachers is a lack of administrative and professional support." (p. 5)
 "Teachers abandon charter schools at especially high rates." (p. 5)
 "Too few principals spend time in classrooms, support teachers in their dealings with parents, and do other things large and small that buttress teacher morale." (p. 5)
"The biggest reason teachers leave is because they are working in a dysfunctional structure. If you put good people in a bad system the system is going to win every time." (Jesse Solomon, p. 6)
Duncan needs do his homework and examine the research.

UPDATED: 8-10-14 Teacher attrition costs the U. S. up to 2.2 Billion annually, Michigan schools up to 59 Million annually. From The Atlantic, Why do Teachers Quit?

UPDATED: 4-1-15  From an interview with Richard Ingersoll of University of Pennsylvania: "Most turnover is driven by school conditions." From NPRed, March 30, 2015: Revolving Door of Teachers Cost Billions Every Year


  1. Interesting how most of these factors driving teachers away from the profession have very little to do with the teachers themselves. The fault is not a lack of well-prepared, competent people entering into the profession, it's a general lack of support from administration, the community, and society as a whole. Arne Duncan is not doing much to help teachers gain esteem with his talking points.
    Well written, post I look forward to reading more.

  2. As a brand new teacher with 27 prior years of experience in computer business sales, I can tell you that teaching is the hardest job I've ever done. I think teachers simply get burnt out. There is no substitute for passion. It's not about the money, but the love of my students that drives me to teach.