Why Good Teachers Quit and Change Jobs
Top 5 Reasons Many Teachers Quit
Many teachers quit because teaching is difficult and, to compound this circumstance, many school and school district administrations practice micromanagement and a lack of support that drives teachers away.
The U.S. Department of Education; National Center for Education Statistics Teacher Follow-up Survey shows these major self-reported reasons among 7,000 teachers and former teachers for why they quit or are likely to soon quit.
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1. Administrative Battles
The persons interviewed in the survey report felt that they suffered:
A constant battle with the administration, including submitting weekly lesson plans for examination and approval, with many re-writes. This red tape entanglement holds up educators' work and the students' progress.
Teachers often feel that they are being directed to "teach to the test", with emphasis placed only upon memorization of facts instead of on active learning, which is effective learning.
The educational bureaucracy has resulted in slow-downs in classroom progress because of numerous re-writes of lessons and lesson plans to improve standardized test scores only not learning - and too many last-minute changes required by school and district administrations.
According to a recent report on teacher attrition by the National Center for Education Statistics, among teachers who quit and took non-education jobs, 64% did so in order to have more autonomy at work, without micromanagement.
This survey among 7,000 current and former teachers also listed the following two administration related conditions as primary reasons for leaving:
2. Unreasonably Heavy Workloads
I remember the split-classroom concept of the 1960s in which two elementary school grades learned together, the older kids helping the younger students at times.
These classrooms still only had 24 or 26 students total, while aides and parents also made themselves available to help. Today, some elementary school rooms contain over 35 or 45 children, with no aides or any other help.
Some high schools have split days, in which two full high schools student populations attend from 7am - 1pm and 2pm - 8pm, or similar hours, in two shifts. Some of the teachers work from before 7am to 8pm, without extra pay for doing double duty.
These workloads are too heavy.
3. Poor General Working Conditions
Teachers are exhausted by the end of their workdays, which usually begin a few hours before the opening bell and last a couple of hours after the last bell. Then they may have homework of their own to do - like grading papers.
Poor and exhausting work conditions plaguing teachers K-12 include
- Parking lots in serious disrepair
- Crumbling stone staircases
- Broken school windows
- Leaking roofs
- Restroom toilets and faucets that do not work
- Poor heating in the winter and no air conditioning in warm molnths
- "Sick building syndrome"
Many teachers could add dozens of other bad conditions that discourage them from facing another work day. The prospect of years in these conditions is untenable.
In one survey of teachers who quit to take non-educational jobs, a full 64% did so in order to enjoy greater autonomy at work, especially to eliminate micromanagement.
4. Standardized Test Score Accountability is Too Harsh
Too much responsibility for accountability scores on No Child Left Behind and other standardized testing and accountability initiatives was listed as another major reason to quit.
As the US states increased education reforms via NCLB and local accountability initiatives, they also loaded increasing and unreasonable accountability standards onto the teachers, without permitting them the necessary training, vital ongoing professional development, or mandatory supplies they needed in order to accomplish the job.
These teachers often were given too many students per classroom as well. This sometimes resulted in too many students in a room that were memorizing facts, but not being able to retain them in order to score high enough on NCLB-mandated tests. These students also did not know how to use or apply the facts they memorized. Critical thinking as a learned skill was bypassed.
In addition, many parents in urban school districts (which generally scored the lowest on NCLB-mandated testing) were unable to help their children with educational needs. This dumped more responsibility onto the already-broken teacher's backs.
The descent of teaching started with testing and the loss of teacher control over curriculum.— Sarah, a Palm Beach County Teacher since 1983
Teachers often feel that they are being directed to "teach to the test" with only memorization of facts instead of active learning.
5. Teaching is No Longer Rewarding
Teaching was no longer rewarding, emotionally or fiscally, since raises in instructional pay are often denied when students' scores were not raised high enough. Some teachers answering the survey were fired for the low scores and others quit.
All this created problems regarding unfair terminations with the teachers' labor unions and growing bad blood between teachers and teachers' unions with administrations.
One-fifth, or 20%, of public school teachers that had no previous full-time teaching experience quit in the school year 2004-2005.
Overall, 65% of former public school teachers report that they are better able to balance work and personal/family life since they quit teaching. Before quitting, nearly all their time was spent on such things as rewriting lesson plans, purchasing their own supplies, and working unpaid overtime hours without additional needed training.
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Overall, 65% of former public school teachers report that they are better able to balance work and personal/family life since they quit teaching.
Teaching was no longer rewarding, emotionally or fiscally, since raises in pay were denied when students' scores were not raised high enough.
An Insidious Cause of Quitting
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110), most often referred to as NCLB, is a United States federal law that was passed in the House of Representatives on May 23, 2001. It has led to over-concentration by school administrations on standardized testing scores.
It was signed into law on January 8, 2002 and reauthorized a number of federal programs that aimed to improve the performance of U.S. primary and secondary students and schools by increasing the standards of accountability (higher standardized test scores) for states, school districts and schools, as well as providing parents more flexibility in choosing which specific schools their children will attend.
Additionally, it promoted an increased focus on reading and mathematics and re-authorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).
Many citizens blame NCLB requirements for the voluntary and involuntary termination of hundreds of K-12 teachers every year.
- Alessi, J.M. Why Good Teachers Quit. PalmBeachPost.com www.palmbeachpost.com/entertainment/books--literature/why-good-teachers-quit/ijX2oMvNc2dRAsSSBLyGVJ/ Retrieved August 14, 2018.
- No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110)
- ProCon.org. Is the Use of Standardized Tests Improving Education in America? https://standardizedtests.procon.org/ Retrieved August 11, 2018.
- SASS Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS); October 2015, January 2018.. National Center for Education Statistics.
- Strauss, V. How much (or little) teachers earn — state by state. The Washington Post; March 2018. www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2018/03/05/how-much-or-little-teachers-earn-state-by-state/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bd9da77a9cd9 Retrieved August 10, 2018.
© 2007 Patty Inglish MS