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Why Half of New Teachers Leave the Profession Before Year Five

Why Half of New Teachers Leave the Profession before Year Five

Researchers who examine educational issues estimate that almost half of teachers leave the profession before they reach their fifth year.  This is a startling statistic.  Can you imagine the state of the medical profession if half of the doctors starting in practices left the medical field before their fifth year?  It would be a disaster for patients under their care and for the profession in general.

New teachers fleeing the classroom has a similar impact on the education profession.  Not only does their exodus impact kids, it sends a very bad message to the public that our public school system is in a state of disarray.  It makes for a public relations’ disaster giving the impression that the world’s most powerful country has a failing education system.

We must peel back the skin of the onion to examine the roots of this societal problem.  The public school teachers I have spoken with point to a myriad of reasons why they or their brethren have left including: a lack of building leadership and feeling unsupported by building leaders; a lack of appropriate professional development (Notice that professional development alone isn’t mentioned.  There is plenty of professional development happening.  It just so happens most of it isn’t highly relevant to teachers’ needs.); schedule (New teachers are not given enough prep periods and often are given the largest classrooms filled with the most challenging students.  This is yet another reason to abolish or curtail the power of the teachers’ unions.); blame for all that’s wrong with the educational system (What teacher would want to remain in the profession if she felt society was blaming her for an entire system’s issues?); and, finally, pay (Some teachers have to take on additional employment, even during the school year, to make ends meet.  Do we really want our children’s teachers distracted by another job, because they are not making enough as teachers to provide for their families?).

Teachers leaving the workforce is a real issue and has dire implications for our children and for the nation as a whole.  Who is going to roll up their sleeves and do something about it?

John Alexander