Teacher turnover is bound to increase

If teaching is such a plum, then why do 16 percent of public school teachers on average leave the profession or change schools each year? (“Teacher turnover is a problem – here’s how to fix it,” the conversation.com, Sep. 7).  Before jumping to conclusions, I think it’s important to distinguish between the two groups if a solution is ever going to be found.

Teachers tend to jump ship from inner-city schools to suburban schools because students in the former bring huge deficits in learning to the classroom through no fault of their own.  Frankly, I don’t blame them.  Teachers want to teach their subject.  If they have to attend to other factors, they become burned out.  They did not sign up to perform triage.

Teachers who quit the profession entirely do so for other reasons. Typically, it’s because they can earn far more money in the private sector.  That is particularly so with teachers who are certified in STEM.  There are other teachers who come to realize that teaching is not what they expected.

When teachers leave the classroom during the school year for any reason, it’s estimated that comes out to a loss of between 32 and 72 instructional days.  But students in high-poverty schools suffer the most because they already have the fewest resources.  Nevertheless, there’s always a loss created by the disruption.

Yet I believe that too little attention is paid to low morale.  When teachers hear nothing but criticism for what they are doing, they begin to question their decision to stay in the classroom.  I don’t see any evidence that matters are going to improve in this regard.  If anything, it’s only going to get worse.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)



2 Replies to “Teacher turnover is bound to increase”

  1. Since at least NCLB, the political process has placed the principal blame for weak academic outcomes on teachers. This is not at all surprising — the alternatives are to blame the parents, the students or poverty. Blaming the parents or the students would be political suicide; blaming poverty is pretty much the equivalent of saying “it’s hopeless”. Blaming teachers is by far the least politically dangerous approach.

    Also, for political leaders (as well as op-ed writers, think-tank types, and others who influence public opinion), it’s quite likely that poorly-performing teachers were the weakest aspect of their personal education experience. Most of these folk grew up in higher-SES families, attended well-funded suburban or private schools, had classmates who were themselves from higher-SES families, and had limited, if any, personal experience in low-SES public schools. Most of these folk also had at least one or two pretty bad teachers. Looking back on their own personal education experiences, these folks do not remember weak parenting, poorly-performing students, or poverty; they do remember the bad teachers.


  2. Labor Lawyer: There are definitely some teachers who should never be in the classroom because of their persistent inability to be effective. Their departure is good. But other teachers who are quite capable leave the field entirely because they went into the profession with unrealistic attitudes. Their departure is a loss. Teachers can’t be continuously demonized and then expected to remain in the field. That’s why I’m pessimistic about the future of the profession.


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