Why Do Teachers Leave?
Although the foregoing analysis has examined where transfers and leavers went after they left their school, one gets a slightly more nuanced picture of turnover if one asks teachers why they left their school. There are numerous reasons for teachers to leave their school in a given year, but teachers reported some reasons more frequently than others. When leavers were asked in the 2000–01 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) to identify which of 17 factors were “very important” in their decision to leave teaching, they most commonly identified retirement (20 percent), followed by family reasons (16 percent), pregnancy/child rearing (14 percent), wanting a better salary and benefits (14 percent), and wanting to pursue a different kind of career (13 percent).35 Among the factors least often reported as “very important” in their decision to leave were teachers’ perceptions that the “school received little support from the community” and that there were too many policy changes at the school (both about 2 percent).
Besides asking teachers what factors influenced their decision to leave, the 2000–01 TFS also asked them how satisfied they were with various features of the school they left. The five most commonly reported sources of dissatisfaction among teachers who transferred to another school were lack of planning time (65 percent), too heavy a workload (60 percent), too low a salary (54 percent), problematic student behavior (53 percent), and a lack of influence over school policy (52 percent).36 Among leavers, the five most commonly reported sources of dissatisfaction were a lack of planning time (60 percent), too heavy a workload (51 percent), too many students in a classroom (50 percent), too low a salary (48 percent), and problematic student behavior (44 percent) (table 6). Examining the sources of dissatisfaction among out-of-field teachers and highly qualified teachers who left teaching reveals that a greater percentage of out-of-field teachers than highly qualified teachers reported dissatisfaction with salary (62 vs. 42 percent), while a greater percentage of highly qualified teachers than out-of-field teachers reported dissatisfaction with lack of planning time (64 vs. 49 percent).37
35Teachers in the 1999–2000 SASS sample who were no longer teaching in 2000–01 were asked a series of questions about which factors influenced their decision to leave the teaching profession. Teachers could respond “extremely important,” “very important,” “somewhat important,” “slightly important,” and “not at all important” to each question. (back to text)
36Leavers reported that they were “strongly” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with these factors at their school. (back to text)
37Unfortunately, it is not possible to compare these rates of dissatisfaction with those of teachers who continued teaching in the same school because continuing teachers were not asked these questions in the TFS.
Figures and Tables
Table 6: Percentage of all, out-of-field, and highly qualified public and private K–12 teachers who did not teach in the same school in 2000–01 as in 1999–2000 and who reported being “strongly” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with particular features of the school they left, by turnover status and top reported sources of dissatisfaction
Table SA15: Standard errors for table 6: Percentage of all, out-of-field, and highly qualified public and private K–12 teachers who did not teach in the same school in 2000–01 as in 1999–2000 and who reported being “strongly” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with particular features of the school they left, by turnover status and top reported sources of dissatisfaction