Teacher Dropouts: Why?

Teachers hold 3.8 million jobs in elementary and secondary U.S. public and private schools, representing approximately 4% of the total civilian workforce. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2006).

On average, a third of the newly hired teachers leave during their first three years; almost half leave during the first five years (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future [NCTAF], 2003).

Here is a table representing how teachers who left the profession, compared various aspects of their current occupation with teaching.


What an eye opener!

Teachers who left the profession rated only two aspects of the teaching profession higher than their present non-teaching position:

1) Benefits 2) Job Security.

The biggest differences cited?

1) Autonomy or control over workload – (65.2% vs 13.7%)

2) Manageability of workload – (60.4% vs 13.5%)

3) General work conditions – (50.9% vs 4.3%)

4) Intellectual challenge – (51.8% vs 17.4%)

5) Opportunities for professional advancement – (53.9%vs 18.1%)

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad news….

Check out these disparities:

1) Professional prestige – (57.7% vs 15.8%)

2) Recognition and support from administrators – (46.8% vs 19.7%)

3) Opportunities for Professional Development – (41.7% vs 19.0%)

So, we have overloaded educators, with little autonomy, little opportunity for professional growth, poor working conditions, minimum intellectual challenge, poor support from administrators, and minimal professional development opportunities.

Is it any wonder why the system is failing so many of our kids?

It’s not just failing our children; it’s failing our educators, too.

“..in comparison to the high school student dropout rate, the teacher turnover rate over an equivalent four-year period is greater than the student population dropout rate.” Laird, DeBell, and Chapman (2006)

Will integrating technology into this environment make a real difference or do we need to transform the environment?


7 thoughts on “Teacher Dropouts: Why?

  1. It’s the transformed environment that will lead to technology integration. When teachers are no longer afraid of being scored low on evaluations because they didn’t teach “bell to bell” (which many interpret as lecture or students sitting quietly working), they’ll be willing to step outside the box. If we say integrate technology, but do it within the confines of traditional teaching methods, we’re dooming technology to fail. Only when teachers are free and encouraged to be professionals and do what they think is right for their students (with some gentle professional development nudging along the way) will we see more willingness to incorporate new and innovative ideas, including technology use into the classroom.

  2. Integrating technology into the school environment is good for the profession. The real problem, in my opinion, is the environment as a whole. I have been teaching in an inner city school for eight years now and still look forward to coming to work, lucky me. I hope I can answer the same in twenty or twenty five years as I approach retirement. The school environment is in trouble from an administrative stand point. All the stats regarding workload and support are true. I came from several years of industry before teaching and still dabble during time off. I can honestly say I am more exhausted from a day at school than outdoor construction type jobs. The comparison I think of is in the “real world” you may deal with a handful of customers at one time, in school there are hundreds throughout the course of one day. The hundreds are the customers I prefer by the way. The general consent is the lack of flexibility and freedom. State tests are just state tests, they do not measure learning.

  3. Ray,
    I did a stint in private industry and agree with your analysis of the workload in schools.

    I once had lunch with Dr. John Henry Martin who wrote a software package called “Writing to Read” back in the ’80’s. He said that at the turn of the century doctors were pretty much unappreciated. There were a lot of home remedies and informal healers around. Doctors made house calls and diagnosis was pretty much dependent only on the doctor’s experience.

    In his opinion, what elevated the profession was technology.

    He felt it would be the same way with educators.

    If it happens, I hope we as educators, never lose our ‘bedside manner’.


  4. Pete,
    Technology definitely has the power to transform the education industry as a business and as a career for teachers. As several posts in many areas have commented, the support has to be in place for technology to be successful. One essential fact is that technology will never make the difference between loving the job and just doing the job. I hope our jobs change to allow more freedom and creativity allowing more fun and learning. This is where we truly shine. Good Stuff. Ray

  5. I feel that most of the teachers leave not due to over load of work but due to no recognition of their contribution. Give them a pat and see the miracle.

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