Can Teaching's 'Revolving Door' Be Stopped?

Can Teaching's 'Revolving Door' Be Stopped? It's a question that has bedeviled school systems across the country and become central to education-policy discussions at all levels: Why do so many great teachers leave the profession?

Several recent studies point to the quality of school leaders--specifically principals--as the most important factor in teacher retention. Unsatisfactory working conditions, low pay, lack of professional--advancement opportunities, and a recent narrow focus on testing are also commonly cited as reasons teachers leave.

What factors have been most influential in your decision to continue teaching? More broadly, what specific policy changes do you think could help keep other great teachers in the classroom? What advice would you give to education leaders and policymakers on sustaining a high-quality teaching force over the long term?

Noah Zeichner Brianna Crowley, in her comment on my last post, wrote that many teachers leave the classroom because "our profession's structure seems stuck in a 1950's model of industrialized, unionized labor rather than a professional model of flexibility and autonomy." This reminded me of a conversation I had last month with an educator from Finland, a nation with a highly unionized, yet amazingly autonomous teaching profession. And their teacher dropout rate is impressively low: 90 percent of trained teachers remain in the profession for the duration of their careers. I've been reading a lot about Finland lately. If you ...

Jane Fung "The kids think nothing about having huge teacher turnover every year. To them, it is normal to have at least one temporary teacher, or a teacher leave in the middle of the year."—comments from Wilbert, an inner city high school teacher. Why is high teacher turnover acceptable in some schools and not in others? I have watched a class at my school have five different teachers in 79 days of school this year. I would venture to say that what is happening at my urban, high-poverty school would not happen at my friend's school across town in a...

Meenoo Rami In response to my original post, Evolving English Teacher posted a thoughtful comment. She wrote: "In recent years there has been a paradigm shift that privileges the absence of experience and expertise in the teaching profession to a model that assumes there is no discernible value in either advanced degrees or years of teaching experience. Why would anyone choose to stay in a profession that devalues these things in the long run?" Her keen insight made me think of the ways teachers have been portrayed in public discourse since I entered the profession seven years ago. Either teachers ...

Let's be real: Teaching is hard, especially in a high needs school. You know you're burning out when you liken your job to volunteer slavery and masochism.

Lillie Marshall I confess: After a long day of teaching my 140 7th graders, I often unwind by watching the reality television competition, "The Voice." In the show, celebrity judges including Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green blindly pick singers, then coach them over several months until America votes on the winner. What is striking about "The Voice" (besides Cee-Lo's fabulous wardrobe choices) are two lessons highly applicable to teacher retention. Lesson A: People have the potential to grow hugely if given time and good coaching. It was astounding how much Cassadee Pope, the Season 3 winner of "The Voice," developed ...

Now in my second year of a reduced teaching schedule, I am able to incorporate much more of my leadership work and extracurricular responsibilities into my workday.

Education policymakers are asking why so many good teachers leave the profession, but I think the more pressing question is why do so many good teachers leave the schools that serve students who most need the best teachers.

What has helped me stay in teaching, over and over, are the positive actions of my principals.

Meenoo Rami When I started writing this, I was sitting in the main office at my school, the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. The table in our main office is where many interesting conversations happen because both staff and students "hang out" there in between classes. When my student Kilah saw that I was working on something, she asked about it. I told her that I was trying to write about ways we can keep great teachers in the classroom, and she immediately offered her point of view. Policymakers should "pay teachers fairly for the work they do, raise the ...

A good principal will help teachers not want to quit teaching, even when the days in the classroom are long and hard.

Project Partner

Looking to learn and lead? Join the CTQ Collaboratory, a virtual community where forward-thinking teachers are connecting, learning, and innovating.

Teaching Ahead is inspired by the vision of teaching and learning set out in Teaching 2030, co-authored by 12 teachers and Barnett Berry. Join @teachingquality for a #CTQchat every 3rd Thursday, 8:30-9:30 p.m. ET.

Recent Comments


Most Viewed On Teacher