NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teacher "Shortage" Is a Turnover Problem

August 15, 2002

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the "teacher shortage" is not mainly due to an inadequate supply of trained teachers -- but to how quickly many teachers leave their jobs, some observers contend.

  • There are more than five times as many teachers as either professors or lawyers -- and twice as many teachers as nurses.
  • But compared to an average turnover rate of 11 percent for many other occupations, the teacher turnover rate is 16 percent a year.
  • For teachers in public schools with high concentrations of poor students, the rate is 20 percent.
  • As many as 33 percent of new hires leave teaching altogether in their first three years -- and 46 percent leave in the first five years.

Studies have established that it is often the best and brightest teachers who leave. Almost half of all teacher turnovers are due to dissatisfaction or teachers seeking other careers.

Solutions being suggested include more support for new teachers and measures to curb student misbehavior. Of the teachers leaving out of dissatisfaction, about one-quarter say student disciplinary problems drove them out.

Source: Richard M. Ingersoll (University of Pennsylvania), "High Turnover Plagues Schools," USA Today, August 15, 2002.

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