Why teachers quit

Money isn’t the main motivator for teachers who switch schools or quit teaching, says an Education Next article based on Texas data. It’s working conditions. Teachers prefer suburban schools with higher-achieving students who are easier to teach.

. . . teachers transfer from one school to another — or exit the Texas public school system altogether — more as a reaction to the characteristics of their students than in response to better salaries in other schools. This tends to leave disadvantaged, low-achieving students with relatively inexperienced teachers. Because teachers appear so unresponsive to salary levels, it would take enormous across-the-board increases to stem these flows.

Improving working conditions and pay at inner-city schools might keep teachers on the job longer, the authors write.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    A requirement that administration support teachers in discipline matters might go a long way to making teachers feel wanted. It seems that the more you pay administration the less they do.

    Nurses should run hospitals and teachers should run schools, with administration subordinate to, supportive of and answerable to the teachers.

    And, of course, hold every one of them to a standard of performance.

  2. Or just a little respect!

    Today my wife is still frothing from something her principal said to her – in front of her collegues.

    She’s been teaching SPED since 1984 and is feeling the need for a bit of a reality check.

    She’s indicated she’s open to taking a regular ed grade next year.

    Her principal amusingly referred to this as “Growing up to become a REAL teacher.”

    Oh, SO funny!

    Near as I can tell, regular ed curriculums are intended to bypass teachers as de-facto incompatants or interchangable parts.

    (Don’t hit, of course you USE your training – but do you really NEED to, or are you just sneaking in some practice?)

    It’s unsurprising that homeschooling is so popular – if you teach to the curriculum from the standard texts and have one or two students instead of thirty-odd, you’d have to be a damn dim bulb indeed to look bad.

    REAL teachers do it with thirty. And special ed teachers take care of the ones “real” teachers can’t teach.

    Needless to say, the lack of respect has her (and me) considerably annoyed.

  3. PJ/Maryland says:

    I can’t say I’m very impressed with this artcile.

    The study authors are all economists, but they apparently aren’t using actual teacher salaries in their study: Instead of relying on salary data reported for each individual teacher, we calculate district average salaries for teachers in each of their first ten years of experience during the period from 1993 to 1996.

    So the net result of the study is really to compare districts and schools which tend to attract transferring teachers, and those which tend to lose teachers.

    Personally, I expect that a decent incentive bonus (say 10%) would help keep teachers at “low achieving” schools. It appears to me that the study did not include many districts with widely varying pay scales. How else to explain that: These patterns were even more pronounced for teachers who moved from urban to suburban districts. The salaries of such teachers actually declined by 0.7 percent, on average, as a result of their moves. The “inner-city to wealthy suburb” move should show the biggest salary shift; apparently in Texas in the mid-90s, there just wasn’t much difference.

    I haven’t waded through the 45 pages of the unabridged study (here), but there’s a note at the bottom of the first page saying the data is not generally available because of privacy concerns. Oh well, guess I won’t be able to whip up my own study 😉 .

    As Walter and GT mention above, an important factor in a teacher’s working environment is admin support and respect. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that schools with low test scores tend to be those which fail to respect and support their teachers. It’s hard to see how you could measure this, though.

  4. I’m not surprised that teachers are generally unmotivated by salary. That confirms my observations. People don’t like to work for failing companies; teachers don’t like to work in failing schools (and take the blame).

    I’m not sure how salary data would be unavailable. That’s usually public record.

    My sympathies to your wife, GraphicTruth. I teach CWC’s as the regular ed teacher, and I have a great deal of respect for what my partner does.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When you hire a star quarterback, you do not insist he play with his shoe laces tied together.

    Let teachers teach.

    What a simplistic idea, hu?

  6. Working conditions matter, too — one of the best high school math teachers I’ve ever known left a “good” Palo Alto public school to teach at a private school — for a slightly lower salary, but unbelievably better working conditions. If I remember him correctly, he went from 5 periods a day with 30+ students in each class to 3 periods a day with 15 students in a class (and easier relations with the administration, a higher percentage of motivated students and involved parents, etc).

  7. Teachers are treated like shit.

    Though I’ve taught for 29 years, I still can’t get used to it.

  8. Well Duh!

    It’s easy have parents and administrators back their teachers and the teachers will be happy. If you can at least get the administrators to back the teachers then half of the battle is won.

  9. DALLASTEACHER says:

    I think there are many things that would lead a person of my background to leave teaching in the inner city. Well, it is definitely true, some of us do not feel secure in the school. For one, I had my car window broken into before, I have had students destroy a couple of my diskettes, I don’t know who. I spend so much of my time on discipline, which is time that could be used in teaching. There is way too much paperwork and if I felt we weren’t saddled with so much paperwork, and things were more computerized, then we could handle the more urgent things and give our attention to the students who need it and most of them are very good kids. So the majority of students are decent kids. For me money is an issue, because I figure with what we have to go through in the inner city, we are not paid enough to put up with it for a long-term basis. If they don’t want to pay us more, then at least invest in more security, have less paperwork and more computers, we want more money because of the working conditions, but change the working conditions and we won’t gripe about the low pay as much.

  10. Itisbroke&needsfixin says:

    If we really cared about our kids in Texas, we would not run public education the way we do. The people (teachers) who really know what needs to be done are almost never asked. Legislators, superintendents, and business leaders have the biggest voice in education policy right now. None of them are in the classroom 5 days a week. The rules they make convince me that they are trying to hurt kids rather than help them. Example: The state’s latest answer to helping kids who don’t pass the mandated state tests: Create more incredibly time-consuming paperwork for teachers by requiring them to create individual graduation plans for each failing student. The time would be better spent teaching.

  11. Itisbroke&needsfixin says:

    If we really cared about our kids in Texas, we would not run public education the way we do. The people (teachers) who really know what needs to be done are almost never asked. Legislators, superintendents, and business leaders have the biggest voice in education policy right now. None of them are in the classroom 5 days a week. The rules they make convince me that they are trying to hurt kids rather than help them. Example: The state’s latest answer to helping kids who don’t pass the mandated state tests: Create more incredibly time-consuming paperwork for teachers by requiring them to create individual graduation plans for each failing student. The time would be better spent teaching.

  12. Gary Wells says:

    Even when a teacher has strong support from administration, as I have I had, it neither cures nor prevents the ‘damage’ to a teacher’s motivation and dedication that is caused by parents who incessantly enable their children by failing to first hold their child and themselves responsible for their own education. The attacks are always aimed at the teacher first as a cause, and always without looking in the mirror first for the relationship between the nut and the tree.