That’s the question asked in last week’s Atlantic, in a piece by Liz Riggs titled “Why Do Teachers Quit?”
But perhaps a more important question is: Why do teachers stay?
And how can we keep them?
The statistics are troubling but familiar: between 40 and 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years.
Most of us can hazard a guess at why teachers leave, and Riggs names them all: lack of support, lack of respect, low pay. But the crucial flipside of teacher turnover is teacher retention, and Riggs is fairly definitive about the latter:
If the overall attractiveness of teaching as a profession gets better, the best teachers will enter the profession, stay, and help increase the effectiveness of schools.
She also quotes Richard Ingersoll, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has done extensive research on teacher turnover and retention: “To improve the quality of teaching,” Ingersoll says, you need to “improve the quality of the teaching job. If you really improve that job…you would attract good people and you would keep them.”
But how to improve the quality of a teaching job is the big question. Ingersoll found that higher pay isn’t necessarily the most significant factor in attracting and retaining teachers.
What does make teachers want to join and stay in the profession? A supportive school administration, for one: Ingersoll’s research shows that teachers who have access to mentors and administrators who encourage them are more likely to remain in the job. Interestingly, Ingersoll also cites parental involvement and student achievement as a factor.
In other words: It takes a village to keep a teacher.
What do you think would encourage more teachers to stick with the profession?