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Do Teachers Have a 5 Year Itch to Quit?

Do Teachers Have a 5 Year Itch to Quit?

Jill Hare

If you’re involved in education, you’ve probably heard that new teachers are leaving the field at an alarming rate each year. Marriages are said to have a seven-year itch, but do teachers get the urge to leave the classroom even sooner? It’s a question Teaching explored recently to see if we should be concerned at how many new teachers give up on the profession early in their career.

When you consider the magnitude of the teaching profession, it helps put into perspective how large the group really is. A recent survey tallied the number of public school teachers at over 3.2 million. * That same survey found that 269,600 total teachers left in 2005. In that single year, that’s 8% of the total number of teachers. The biggest group to leave the year of the study, however, were not those who had taught for a mere five years. Rather, the biggest group of teachers who left were those who were retiring- totaling over 100,00. This group accounted for 3% of the 8% who left teaching. The next largest group were the teachers who’d been in the field from 4-9 years, but they left at a much smaller rate (2%/68,800.)

Coming in at a close second and third for leaving the teaching profession the year of the study were the teachers who had been teaching 1-3 years and those teaching between 10-19 years. Each group ranges from 45,000-50,000.

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So is there a five-year itch? Maybe. They way the survey was conducted makes it difficult to tell. The group of teachers who left the profession in 1-3 years was 48,000. That time period only spans 3 years in the life of the teacher. The next survey group spanned from 4-9 years- a much larger time period in the life of a teacher. Because of this larger time span, the results are larger at 68,800 (verses 48,600). If you break down the statistics, more teachers left on average in the first three years than the three subsequent years. Interesting. Let’s compare further.

Many might think that people change jobs (and even careers) more now than in past generations of workers. It turns out that this new generations of workers may not be that different from the last. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracked the employment histories of about 10,000 workers over the course of the last 25 years. It found that the average young Baby Boomer held 10.5 jobs in that time period- changing jobs about every 2 years. The U.S. study did not pinpoint the reason for the job changes. However, Teaching can shed some light on Why Teachers Quit

While employers would definitely be hesitant to hire a professional that had changed jobs so often, a teaching career may be more stable than other professions. Ninety percent of the teaching force stayed in education the year of the survey referenced. Every profession may give you the itch to try something new. Finding a career is tough with so many options. One of the greatest things about the American job market is the variety it offers. College can help steer you in the right direction, but there’s nothing like real experience to help you figure out if a career is for you. Loosing good workers in any job is tough for employers, but loosing workers that know they can’t commit their best whole-heartedly may be a good for the profession. Great employees are the ones who want to be there day in day out and make a positive contribution to their environment.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Discuss both sides of the issue now.

Why Do Teachers Quit?

Why Teachers Don’t Quit


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