Why New Teachers Leave the Profession?

Introduction

The education problem being addressed in this article is the high attrition rate of new public school teachers in the United States. This is a problem because roughly a quarter of all beginning teachers leave the profession within three years and 40-50% leave within five years (Galant & Riley, 2014; Ingersoll & Smith, 2003; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2003; U.S. Department of Education, 2007). Historically, when there has been a shortage of teachers to meet the demands for filling classrooms, many of the nation’s schools have lowered their standards to fill teacher vacancies (Darling-Hammond, 1984; Loeb, Darling-Hammond, & Luczak, 2005). High attrition rates also disrupt the quality, continuity, and planning of teaching programs, causing increased expenditures on the part of school districts in their efforts to recruit and hire replacement teachers (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2013; Shen, 1997). This problem is important to address because a less qualified educator workforce results in lower school performance and achievement (Borman & Dowlin, 2008; Boyd, 2008; Ronfeldt, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2013).

Given this problem, the purpose of this article is the following: 1) to understand how research on attrition is approached by scholars 2) to examine three factors related to high attrition rates: students, teachers, and schools.

Review of Relevant Research

A challenge to understanding new teacher attrition is that researchers have varying constructs and approaches for studying it. For example, Djonko-Moore (2015) has grounded her studies in social ecological theory. Gallant and Riley (2014) have examined attrition from a more holistic perspective. Shen (1997) proposed that there are essentially two general approaches to studying new teacher attrition: multivariate or theoretical, and bivariate. The multivariate approach makes inquiry into a set of variables to test theories as to why teachers leave or stay; some examples are the human capital theory, social learning theory, and theory of teachers as rational economic decision-makers (Shen, 1997). Chapman and Green (1986) utilized a multivariate approach in their study of four groups of University of Michigan graduates; their findings concluded that attrition could be ascribed to the social learning process. Bivariate approaches are more prevalent in the literature, such as in Hughes’ (2012) study that examined the relationship between a teacher’s gender and attrition. Similarly, DeAngelis and Presley’s (2011) study measured the impact of teaching assignments on attrition. Though approaches have varied, the evidence is unanimous that student characteristics are factors that have contributed to new teacher attrition.

The Student Factor

Student characteristics have been identified across research studies to explain why new teachers leave the profession. A study using National Center for Education Statistics’ 2007-09 survey data found that negative student behavior in high-poverty, racially segregated schools increased the likelihood of new teacher attrition by 368% (Djonko-Moore, 2015). Kukla-Acevedo (2009) discovered that the behavioral climate created by students was a critical factor the contributed to the attrition of first year teachers. They were 16 times more likely to quit teaching when they perceived their students’ behavior to be severely negative or one standard deviation higher than average (Kukla-Acevedo, 2009). Loeb et al. (2005) examined the predictors of high rates of teacher turnover and found that ethnic, racial, language composition, and poverty level of a school’s student body strongly contributed to higher attrition. In addition to student factors, teacher characteristics have contributed to higher attrition.

The Teacher Factor

Much research has been conducted to examine how teachers’ own characteristics factor into attrition. Studies have been inconsistent about the impact of certain personal and background characteristics like gender, race/ethnicity, and age (Borman & Dowling, 2008; Boyd, Grossman, Ing, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2011). For example, when attrition rates of White teachers to minority teachers were compared, study results have been mixed. In some cases, White teachers were more likely to leave than Latino teachers (Imazeki, 2005). In other situations, minority teachers were more likely to leave the profession (Kirby, Berends, & Naftel, 1999). However, studies that have inquired into teachers’ academic and professional preparation have been more conclusive in their findings (Guarino, Santibañez, & Daley, 2006). DeAngelis and Presley (2011) analyzed 30 years of population data in Illinois that included 23 cohorts of new teachers. It found that 44% of new teachers with ACT scores of 25 or higher left teaching within their first 5 years compared to an average of 36% for teachers with scores of 18 or below. In addition, 47% of new teachers who had a graduate degree (master’s degree or higher) left the profession compared to 39% of those who only possessed a bachelor’s degree (DeAngelis & Presley, 2011). Boyd, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff (2005) demonstrated that teachers who graduated from more selective undergraduate institutions, as defined and ranked by Barron’s College Guide, were more likely to leave the profession.

Research has shown that a psychological factor known as teacher self-efficacy is related to new teacher attrition. Self-efficacy can be understood as a teacher’s belief regarding his or her ability to influence matters in the classroom and school (Hong, 2012; Hughes, 2012; Shen, 1997). Hong’s (2012) study compared 14 new teachers, seven of whom quit while the other seven remained. It found that both groups faced similar challenges in terms of work environment, classroom management, and lesson delivery. However, the teachers who quit often doubted their abilities and imposed heavy burdens on themselves that led to stress and burnout. Studies have also shown that teachers who displayed stronger self-efficacy beliefs more positively impacted student achievement (Ross & Gray, 2006; Ware & Kitsantas, 2007). Policy makers, researchers, and educators can also learn much about new teacher attrition by examining school characteristics.

The School Factor

School characteristics can be understood as the many components that form the operational and cultural climate of a school. Research suggested that the cultural climate of a school may be the strongest indicator influencing the attrition of new teachers (Hughes, 2012; Kukla-Acevedo, 2009). School leadership has been shown to powerfully influence attrition (Boyd et al., 2011; Goldring, Taie, & Riddles, 2014). A study that involved former and current teachers highlighted that the most influential factor (over 40%) for both groups whether or not to leave teaching was dissatisfaction with administration (Boyd et al., 2011). A meta-analysis was conducted using 34 attrition studies, and it was found that new teacher attrition was much higher in schools that lacked a culture of teacher networking and collaboration (Borman & Dowling, 2008). In a study that involved nine beginning teachers who left the profession within five years, major findings were that each of them did not feel welcome, veteran teachers were reluctant to share their expertise, and schools were full of conflict (Gallant & Riley, 2014). One teacher confessed in her narrative about the situation with colleagues: “[they were] too embroiled in their own affairs and internal politics to really give me the guidance that I needed” (Gallant & Riley, 2014, p. 573). According to the literature, this was not a unique experience. In a large scale study that involved 26,257 teachers, Ware and Kitsantas (2007) analyzed 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey data. They found a direct link between teachers’ level of career satisfaction and their perceived support from leadership and colleagues. The lower the perceived support, the lower the career satisfaction; many who have left teaching have reported low career satisfaction (Ware & Kitsantas, 2007).

Importance of the Problem

The issue of high attrition rates for new teachers continues to capture the attention of American policymakers, researchers, educators, and the public because of the adverse impact on education organizations and student learning. This problem is important to solve because research has shown that teachers generally need five years of solid teaching experience to become effective at improving student achievement (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). Part of the solution involves providing new teachers with sufficient preparation and support to provide all students with a quality education across geographic and demographic areas (Boyd et al., 2011). Providing this support is difficult when recent research demonstrated that new teachers tend to be placed in more difficult schools, faced with more challenging students and work conditions, furthering the likely cycle of burnout that leads to quitting (Boyd, 2008; Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2002). Failing to solve this problem of new teacher attrition in the United States will make entering the profession unattractive to new, qualified candidates (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003).

Utilizing Professional Learning Communities

Looking forward, however, a promising strategy to address the problem of new teacher attrition is the implementation of a learning communities perspective in schools (Wynn, Patall, & Carboni, 2007). Dufour and Eaker (1998) describe a professional learning community as an open, adaptive school system where teachers are valued and committed to personal and organizational growth. It is more advantageous in addressing the problem of new teacher attrition than a one factor solution such as proposing higher teacher salaries (Wynn, Patall, & Carboni, 2007). Additionally, a professional learning community provides a multifaceted solution to the problem: student achievement is improved, teachers’ skills are increased by way professional development learning cycles, and the school climate is more positive as a result of supportive leadership and colleagues (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, (2006).

References

Borman, G. D., & Dowling, N. M. (2008). Teacher attrition and retention: A meta-analytic and narrative review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 367-409.

Boyd, D. (2008). Who leaves? teacher attrition and student achievement. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). Explaining the short careers of high-achieving teachers in schools with low-performing students. The American Economic Review, 95(2), 166-171.

Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Ing, M., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). The influence of school administrators on teacher retention decisions. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2), 303-333.

Chapman, D. W., & Green, M. S. (1986). Teacher retention: A further examination. The Journal of Educational Research, 79(5), 273-279.

Darling-Hammond, L. (1984). Beyond the Commission Reports. The Coming Crisis in Teaching. Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation.

DeAngelis, K. J., & Presley, J. B. (2011). Toward a more nuanced understanding of new teacher attrition. Education and Urban Society, 43(5), 598-626.

Djonko-Moore, C. (2015). An exploration of teacher attrition and mobility in high poverty racially segregated schools. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1-25.

DuFour, R. & Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Bloomington, IN: National Education Service.

Gallant, A., & Riley, P. (2014). Early career teacher attrition: New thoughts on an intractable problem. Teacher Development, 18(4), 562-580.

Goldring, R., Taie, S., & Riddles, M. (2014). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2012–13 Teacher Follow-up Survey (NCES 2014-077). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Guarino, C. M., Santibañez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of the recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173-208.

Hong, J. Y. (2012). Why do some beginning teachers leave the school, and others stay?Understanding teacher resilience through psychological lenses. Teachers and Teaching, 18(4), 417-440.

Hughes, G. D. (2012). Teacher retention: Teacher characteristics, school characteristics, organizational characteristics, and teacher efficacy. The Journal of Educational Research, 105(4), 245-255.

Imazeki, J. (2005). Teacher salaries and teacher attrition. Economics of education Review24(4), 431-449.

Ingersoll, R. M., & Smith, T. M. (2003). The wrong solution to the teacher shortage. Educational Leadership, 60(8), 30-33.

Kirby, S. N., Berends, M., & Naftel, S. (1999). Supply and demand of minority teachers in Texas: Problems and prospects. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis21(1), 47-66.

Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Leavers, Movers, and Stayers: The Role of Workplace Conditions in Teacher Mobility Decisions. The Journal of Educational Research102(6), 443–452.

Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2002). Teacher sorting and the plight of urban schools: A descriptive analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24 (1), 37 62.

Loeb, S., Darling-Hammond, L., & Luczak, J. (2005). How teaching conditions predict teacher turnover in California schools. Peabody Journal of Education80(3), 44-70.

National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. (2003, January). No dream denied: A pledge to America’s children.

Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458.

Ronfeldt, M., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). How teacher turnover harms student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 4-36.

Ross, J. A., & Gray, P. (2006). School leadership and student achievement: The mediating effects of teacher beliefs. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(3), 798-822,920.

Shen, J. (1997). Teacher Retention and Attrition in Public Schools: Evidence From SASS91. The Journal of Educational Research91(2), 81–88.

Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221-258.

Ware, H., & Kitsantas, A. (2007). Teacher and collective efficacy beliefs as predictors of professional commitment. The Journal of Educational Research, 100 (5), 303-310, 328.

Wynn, S., Patall, E., & Carboni, L. W. (2007). Beginning teachers’ perceptions of mentoring, climate, and leadership: Promoting retention through a learning communities perspective. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 6 (3), 209-229.

Joel Tapia VLOG – Is your life aligned? Consider the BVMSD Framework

Dear Companion,

I offer a simple framework, BVMSD, to help you examine and align your life for better cohesion and joy. Peace comes from being on the outside who we say we are on the inside!

B.V.M.S.D. =
Beliefs
Values
Mission
Say
Do

Write down a few things you said and did at the end of each day in order to validate if you are aligning yourself to your beliefs, values, and sense of mission.

Check, adapt, and keep at it!

Dr. Joel Tapia

Know and Learn to Use Your Gift

Dear companion,

You are gifted with a key talent.

Amazingly, all of us are born with distinct qualities and proclivities that we develop into our signature talents. I feel very competent with striking up random conversations with strangers; don’t ask me to organize three boxes of old files.  I can do it, but it doesn’t excite me. My wife on the other hand will be in color-code heaven. Having said that, it’s important that you identify what is, and isn’t, your gift that will bring great success, fulfillment, and happiness.

Why?

A wise proverb says: “A person’s gift makes room for her, and brings her before great leaders.”

Your unique, signature talent is like a key patterned to unlock precious doors.  Your signature key belongs to 1% of all keys that can open thatspecificdoor called wild success.  Behind that door awaits an audience in the presence of great leaders. How do you make “room” for yourself when you are in a crowded room–how will you stand out? It’s not by using your nominal key representing basic, ubiquitous skill. Use the key that has your name on it.

Now, let me help you identify your gift–your signature talent. It is that “thing” about “you” that either:

  1. People often tell you that you are really, really good at
  2. Often gets you in “trouble” because the gift is driving you and not the other way around

The first point is self-explanatory, so let me expound on the second point.

  • Smart people can become arrogant real fast.
  • Talkers can hurt others’ feelings very quickly, with just one utterance.
  • Very organized people can struggle with flexibility.
  • Nice people can become doormats.
  • Analytical people can become paralyzed into inaction.
  • Entrepreneurs can become ADHD-fueled and never finish what they started.
  • Great listeners can fail to be heard.
  • Ambitious people often isolate their friends and family.
  • Visionaries may find that their airplane is empty.

You get my point?

Your most amazing gift– your key signature talent that makes you very valuable–can also become your downfall and derailer if you fail to learn to use it properly.

Like a knife, your gift can be used to hurt or heal.  How you hold it, use it, makes all the difference.

Thus, I encourage you to reflect, identify your signature talent, and use it wisely.

  • Smart people can become humble.
  • Talkers can season their speech to touch the heart and mind.
  • Very organized people can prepare systems that afford them flexibility.
  • Nice people can say “no” nicely.
  • Analytical people can learn to use feedback loops to encourage action.
  • Entrepreneurs can find accountability partners to keep them grounded.
  • Great listeners can listen to their own advice and speak up.
  • Ambitious people can learn to see wealth and success in non-material ways.
  • Visionaries can learn to shape direction by talking up with and not down to people.

So, remember that you are gifted.  There are some things, or maybe just one thing, that you do so well and only 1% of the population can do it. Identify it. Learn to properly and wisely use your gift. Failure to do so will turn your gift into a derailer.

Why not choose to use your signature gift and key to “make room for you” and bring you “before great leaders”?

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

5 Steps to Overcoming Adversity (Article)

How do you handle adversity?

Dear companion,

None of us are strangers to adversity. You may be experiencing a lay-off, divorce, serious illness, or a terrifying depression. Perhaps you lost a friend or loved one. Maybe you carry a deep hurt that no one knows about. Or, you could be feeling completely stuck in your professional practice. The truth is that humanity is plagued by difficulty, conflict, confusion, and adversity. Your situation is real, and I’m here to acknowledge it— not minimize your pain. How can we overcome this adversity and move forward with dignity?

There are 5 steps in the journey to learning to overcome adversity. As you read on, take your situation and imagine applying each step to your specific context.

1. Have your “momentary” pity party – get it out 

At first, it’s okay to sulk, shut down, or cry. Stay in bed for a day. Get away from the immediate situation by taking a long drive to a city a few hours away. Turn off your cell phone for a day and watch your favorite movies. Replay the situation and feel horrible about it. The key is this: have a great pity party, whatever that means to you, but promise yourself to make it intense and brief. Then, make a commitment to stand up tall once you are finished. Also, never do anything that will hurt yourself or others. And yes, it’s normal and healthy to feel emotional.

2. Assess and “own” the part of the situation that you do have control over

Now that you have given your heart and emotions proper attention, turn to your brain. Think very honestly about your role in the situation. It may be very small or very large, but almost always we contribute to both our successes and troubles in life. Maybe you were wronged by a person who you knew in your gut you shouldn’t have trusted. Perhaps you could be more punctual or receptive to feedback. Whatever your part, own it. Truly own it. Maybe it’s not something you did, but something you didn’t do that could have helped the situation? As much as we like to think about and replay the part of the situation that we have no control over, stop. Within your little circle of influence, assess and “own” any personal contribution to the adversity and learn from it. You will be better because of it.

3. Write down and commit to a realistic and measurable action plan for moving forward that includes the likelihood of the worst-case scenario happening 

Getting through adversity requires proper planning and implementation, not wishful thinking. Thus, find the time and space to sit down and write. List out all the possible outcomes in your situation. Rank them from best to worst. Then, plan very carefully and in detail as if the worst-case scenario will occur. This is not pessimism; it’s being a wise-realist. In the event that your nightmare comes true, you are ready and prepared to tackle it with strength and wisdom. If anything better than your worst-case scenario occurs, then you will be relieved, thankful, and ready to move towards resolution. And never, ever, even in planning for the worst-case scenario, do you stop engaging in hopeful activity like prayer, meditation, or connecting with your beliefs and values.

4. Take stock of all the blessings you have in life– adopt this new mindset– and give big thanks 

Now, to bring life to your heart, mind, and plan, it’s critical to dig deep and find gratefulness by counting all the blessings in your life. Start as far back as you can remember. What good has come your way? In what ways can you say, ‘I’m blessed’. Yes, there is always someone in a worse or better position than you. But, take a moment to look over the fence on the side that points to “I’m doing well in this area of my life”. Perhaps you have musical talent, or know how to be a good listener. Maybe you are a good writer or make a delicious soup that bring life to the sick. Perhaps you have endless energy and bring life to a party. God made you special. I’m telling you—you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are worthy.

5. Trust the process – You are not alone and the entire human race can relate to you

You are not alone. You may feel alone during times of adversity, but know that you are running a marathon in the lane of life. This is not a sprint. To the right and left of you, in front and behind you, people are moving along experiencing very similar adversities. Together, we acknowledge that life is hard, unfair, but also we acknowledge that living life well is a testament to the beauty and courage of people who pick themselves and others up and move forward. So, trust the process of life. Things come, things go, but your integrity and sense of purpose is something you hold dearly in your hands. Things happen to you in life—but you decide how you respond and who you become in the process. We all do. Take comfort in knowing that your experience is simply proof of your humanity. You belong and fit in with the rest of us.

In conclusion, circumstances must not dictate our joy and peace. Fulfillment comes from knowing who we are. Strength comes from being able to successfully endure life’s adversity with poise, integrity, a well-planned response, and hope. You’ve got this.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

The Need for Inspiring Training

Dear companion,

Are you inspired by your organization’s training?

When I started my career as a teacher 15 years ago, the professional development we received was not always inspiring.  If you don’t know, in public schools, traditional training often happens like this:  it’s Friday afternoon, you’re exhausted from teaching all week, and the staff is physically crammed into a small classroom without AC where someone is mentally cramming a PowerPoint into your brain.  This is often called a “non-negotiable” training in education circles.

It’s not hard to imagine why teachers keep teaching the way they always have: little has been done to engage them in meaningful and personalized learning. You better believe that this has a trickle-down effect on teachers and the motivation they transmit to students.

Fast forward 15 years. The other day, my school psychologist shared how the district’s special education department had provided a very lengthy PowerPoint (containing very important information) that needed to be shared with all staff members at school sites. She needed me to provide her with a staff meeting date for sharing the information so that we could be in “compliance”.

I immediately arranged a meeting with my site’s special education team to review the purpose of the training and the PowerPoint.  What did we really want to accomplish? As we reviewed the information together, I thought to myself, there is no way teachers are going to take anything from this session if we just dump this information on them on a Friday afternoon! There has to be a better way!

Research shows that individuals are more likely to be motivated to engage in learning when the information presented aligns with their interests (Renninger, Hidi, & Krapp, 2014) and values (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2012), and when the training is structured to encourage and foment the trainees’ positive sense of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977; Pajares, 1996) and attributions (Schunk, 1990; Weiner, 1974).

Knowing the research, our team brainstormed and leveraged our collective intelligence to create a much more personalized, differentiated, and meaningful training.

We sent the PowerPoint ahead of time so staff could read and review it. However, each of the five members of our site’s special education team planned a more interactive learning session.  Based on their self-identified strength of knowledge and experiences related to the topics included in the presentation, we negotiated how each teammate would become the facilitator of a small “special education topics” workshop.

When the Friday’s staff training came, after a brief introduction, the staff transitioned into break-out sessions. Teachers were able to choose and attend the special education topic most interesting to them.  The smaller groups created great engagement. Teachers were nodding, waving their arms energetically, taking down notes, pointing to charts, and generating more questions for the team to follow-up on.  Teachers were also given time to rotate into a total of three distinct sessions. To wrap up, each facilitator shared some highlights and key questions that emerged from the small group sessions.

Teachers can be very protective of their contract time. And, on a Friday afternoon, 30 minutes past the scheduled end-time, teachers still wanted to engage in more conversation! It was good stuff.

Why?

Learning for adults happens more readily when it is meaningful because it is aligned to personal interests and occurs in smaller group settings where there is less fear to take risk to participate.

So, I ask you today: How does training occur in your organization? Is it a one-size-fits-all approach or are you able to influence the way you receive and engage in training?

People are inspired when they have a voice in what and how they learn.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

References

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review84(2), 191.

Pajares, F. (1996). Self-efficacy beliefs in academic settings. Review of educational research66(4), 543-578.

Pintrich, P. R. (2003). A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts. Journal of educational Psychology95(4), 667.

Renninger, A., Hidi, S., & Krapp, A. (Eds.). (2014). The role of interest in learning and development. Psychology Press.

Schunk, D. H. (1990). Socialization and the Development of Self-Regulated Learning: The Role of Attributions.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (2012). Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. Routledge.

Weiner, B. (Ed.). (1974). Achievement motivation and attribution theory. General Learning Press.