May 8, 2006
Half of new teachers quit within 5 years: study
By Lisa Lambert
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jessica Jentis fit the profile of a
typical American teacher: She was white, held a masters degree
and quit two and a half years after starting her career.
According to a new study from teachers' union the National
Education Association, half of new U.S. teachers are likely to
quit within the first five years because of poor working
conditions and low salaries.
Jentis, now a stay-at-home mother of three, says that she
couldn't make enough money teaching in Manhattan to pay for her
student loans and that dealing school bureaucracy was too
"The kids were wonderful to be with, but the stress of
everything that went with it and the low pay did not make it
hard to leave," she said. "It's sad because you see a lot of
the teachers that are young and gung-ho are ready to leave."
The proportion of new teachers leaving has hovered around
50 percent for decades, said Barry Farber, a professor of
education and psychology at Columbia University.
The study, which the association released last week ahead
of its annual salute to teachers on Tuesday, also found today's
average teacher is a married, 43-year-old white woman who is
Teachers are more educated than ever before, with the
proportion of those holding Masters degrees increasing to 50
percent from 23 percent since the early 1960s.
Only 6 percent of teachers are African-American and 5
percent are Hispanic, Asian or come from other ethnic groups.
Men represent barely a quarter of teachers, which the
association says is the lowest level in four decades.
"We must face the fact that although our current teachers
are the most educated and most experienced ever, there are
still too many teachers leaving the profession too early, not
enough people becoming teachers and not enough diversity in the
profession," said NEA President Reg Weaver in a statement.
Thanks to the high dropout rate of younger teachers, there
will be plenty of job openings for teachers over the next 10
years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Because education is governed at the state level, programs
to retain younger teachers differ from state to state.