Half of teachers leave the job after five years. Here’s what to do about it

Jul 21, 2014 by

By Alexandria Neason

Amid intense debate about new education standards, and teacher tenure and pay, the Alliance for Excellent Education has turned the focus to new teachers – and their tendency to quit.

A new report, published by the Alliance in collaboration with the New Teacher Center (NTC), a non-profit that helps schools and policymakers develop training for new educators, found that about 13 percent of the nation’s 3.4 million teachers move schools or leave the profession every year, costing states up to $2 billion. Researchers estimate that over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years.

Related: Teacher Selection

Katie Bonfiglio, a 9th grade English Teacher at Arlington High School is part of a nationwide push underway to dramatically improve teacher training and evaluation through recording classes, then reviewing critiquing the footage. Arlington uses video routinely in teacher training and evaluation. Here she teaches her (Michelle Pemberton/The Star)

Katie Bonfiglio, a 9th grade English Teacher at Arlington High School. (Michelle Pemberton/The Star)

The high turnover rates are sometimes due to layoffs, “but the primary reason they leave is because they’re dissatisfied,” said Richard Ingersoll, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose research on teacher retention was published in the report. Teachers say they leave because of inadequate administrative support and isolated working conditions, among other things. These losses disproportionately affect high-poverty, urban and rural schools, where teaching staffs often lack experience.

A Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) report found that schools serving low-income, minority students turn over half of their staffs every three years, deepening the divide between poor and wealthy students to the most experienced teachers.

But the new report says poor retention isn’t a commitment problem. It’s a support problem.

A National Center for Education Statistics survey found a correlation between the level of support and training provided to new teachers and their likelihood of leaving after the first year. So the Alliance and NTC have concluded that new teachers need more on-the-job training and mentor programs for the first two years that’s designed to keep them in the profession.

Called “comprehensive induction,” the training should include a high-quality, pre-screened mentor who is an experienced teacher, common planning time with other teachers, regular and rigorous training, and ongoing contact with school leaders, like principals and district officials, according to the NTC and Alliance report.

Ingersoll says studies prove these programs work, but that the quality of them is inconsistent across schools, districts, and states.

“It’s no surprise that reforms centered around induction and support for beginning teachers has become a trend,” said Ingersoll.

The report suggests that these mentorship programs be required for new teachers to earn full licensure, and stresses the importance of schools giving mentor teachers time and compensation to support novice teachers. It also recommends regular evaluations of new teachers, school-wide analysis of teacher learning conditions and environment, and district responsibility to distribute effective teachers evenly across schools.

“It’s way more than giving them a mentor,” said Ellen Moir, founder of the NTC.

via Half of teachers leave the job after five years. Here’s what to do about it | The Hechinger Report.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Avatar
    Colin Hannaford

    The vast majority of school kids want to learn to have a better life. We need not only ask why so many new teachers’ morale is being destroyed, but what of the cost in the future when the millions they have tried to teach enter society as young adults who are frustrated, angry, resentful, and unable to learn?
    There is an alternative. It needs only courage to implement it.
    In September 1979 I was appointed the first head of mathematics education in the first official British European Schools of the European Union. This was a highly privileged position. What made it unique in Britain, and therefore made me uniquely privileged in Europe, is that I was immediately out of reach of the British or any other national education system.
    For the next twenty-five years I was able to decide entirely independently and precisely how to teach mathematics to my multi-national and multi-lingual pupils aged from 11 to 18. Of course I was criticized: sometimes by parents who felt that I was favouring children less clever than their own. But no-one could interfere.
    In the official European Schools, of which there are now fourteen, there is no intermediate exam. The final exam – the European Baccalaureate – which all its senior pupils must take is very tough indeed. It requires senior pupils to achieve good grades in nine compulsory subjects, one of which must be mathematics, and up to five more elective subjects, all of them at international university entry level. The seniors who do well are exceptional. My senior pupils consistently achieved amongst the highest average grades of all the then thirteen Schools.
    In the beginning, however, I soon discovered that the way I had been taught to teach at Cambridge University’s very prestigious School of Education did not suit my pupils, and it did not suit me. More to the point: it was a very poor way to teach mathematics. It was boring. It was horrifyingly ineffective. I found that it was destroying my youngsters morally, socially, and intellectually.
    How I began to change this: how I develop a method of encouraging my pupils, first the most junior, but eventually also the seniors, to learn mathematics in a manner that is vastly more effective in creating and sustaining deeper understanding, but which also teaches them to have real respect for each other, and to accept criticism without resentment, and to enjoy learning.
    When I returned to my school two years ago for a reunion, I was surrounded by a number of my old pupils who told me: “You know, when you taught us, we just thought you odd. Now we realize that you were the best teacher we ever had!”
    I wish all new teachers could have this experience. My method is described in detail in a recently published book ‘Educating Messiahs’. Much of it can be read on Amazon – at no cost at all!

  2. Avatar
    Teacher With a Brain

    OK, let’s place some “reality” on the table. Teachers are weary of receiving criticism from thinktank wonks who have never walked in their shoes. Yes, we get no support but this is in some part due to civil rights (which I support, BUT) which have stripped schools of any authority to take meaningful action to assign consequences to students for failure to do assignments, homework or to refrain from chronic low-level disruptive behavior in the classroom, which includes tardies.

    Charter schools have the weight of the contract they require parents and students to sign and to abide by, and they retain the right (presumably after following a due process) to expel students who do not abide by their contract. This is one of the items that sets charter schools (in addition to the lack of an elected school board) apart from local public schools.

    Today we have almost no legal authority to compel students to complete work, to study, to turn in assignments. Even the SARB process used for the chronically truant and tardy has no teeth today, though it requires multi-step interventions (paperwork) at the building level on the part of teachers and other staff.

    For all the cheering we do for excellent young teachers who daily teach hours of compelling lessons that simply rivet their learners to the content, we have no ability to administer consequences for the failure on the part of the student to hold up their end of the bargain. It’s like getting a prescription from your doctor to cure an illness, but failing to follow through with taking the medication as prescribed, then trying to fix the blame on the doctor. No one in their right mind would blame the doctor, but all over America we blame the teacher for the failure of students to follow through with their responsibilities in the learning process. Too many parents will not assist in holding their child accountable. When teachers offer to hold mandatory after school study halls for such students, we have no legal authority to do so.

    We need the authority to assign consequences to students when their parents will not support the learning process from home. Without this, what good is all the shouting and the discontent? What happens when all schools are charter schools, who takes the students nobody wants and whose parents won’t lift a finger to support their child’s education? Who assigns them the consequences so they might have the opportunity to learn that life means consequences for the choices we make?

  3. Delia Stafford

    Haberman Star Teacher Selection is research based and is being used across the states. Selection is more important than training. If you get the right individuals with the core beliefs that drive the teaching performance , students will learn and teachers will stay!

    Better teachers, better schools, better principals ,better schools!

    • Avatar
      Teacher with a Brain

      While I will not argue the value of seeking teachers who have a growth mindset and a positive attitude, I submit this may be an oversimplification.

      1) Before the tool itself becomes well-known, is there a large enough pool of potential teachers who pass the screening? Perhaps there is or there may not be. I am not familiar with it.

      2) As the tool gains in popularity we encounter the same situation we have created in schools: teachers teach to the test, smart teacher candidates present the attitude and mindset the employer is seeking. Why would anyone go to an interview intending to do anything less?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.