The American educational system has been regarded as an effective model that should be copied in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, U. S. education is now facing considerable challenges that can have numerous negative implications for the entire society and the development of the country. The problem of the shortage of teachers in the American educational system is becoming urgent since an increasing number of teachers choose to migrate to other schools or even leave the profession.
New teachers are specifically vulnerable to abandon the profession during the first five years of their professional life due to various factors (Callahan, 2016). According to Callahan (2016), approximately half of early-career teachers leave the profession within the period mentioned above. The high turnover of novices is persistent in urban settings where residents have to address numerous socioeconomic and cultural issues (Hammonds, 2017). Some of the causes of high turnover of new members of the faculty include organizational, personal, and institutional (Newberry & Allsop, 2017; Nguyen et al., 2020). Although certain interventions, projects, and policies have been introduced to address the problem on different levels, early-career teachers continue leaving the profession.
It is necessary to note that new teachers are seen as professionals who have a formal education (obtained through traditional university-based programs and alternative programs or out-of-state prepared) and a limited working experience (between several months and five years) (Redding & Henry, 2018). Although changing jobs has been common for the educational environment (similarly to any other field), a novel trend involving high attrition rates among this cohort appeared several decades ago. The situation is quite alarming in all U.S. states, which suggests that the problem may have deep institutional roots that need to be examined and addressed accordingly.
Early-career educators choose to quit their jobs and start working in other spheres or obtain another education to commence a novel professional path. It is also important to note that administrators utilize different retention measures to ensure the proper provision of educational services to the students of their schools. For instance, induction programs involving teachers during the first year of their work predicted a decreased degree of attrition and migration among the target population (Ronfeldt & McQueen, 2017). The effectiveness of such projects proved to be high in different contexts and with teachers of various backgrounds, except Black teachers and those working with students who speak English as their second language (Ronfeldt & McQueen, 2017). Numerous initiatives implemented in diverse educational establishments across the country address other aspects as well (Podolsky et al., 2017). Workload, benefits, compensation, and working conditions are re-examined to ensure the effectiveness of retention practices. Nevertheless, the current turnover rate remains rather high irrespective of the taken efforts, so more research on the matter is necessary.
Moreover, some policies and school-based interventions have a negative impact on teachers’ professional development. For instance, the existing accountability policies contribute to the current problem (Ryan et al., 2017). Enhanced test-stress, burnout, and high turnover intent are major outcomes of such policies. In addition to institutional aspects, the peculiarities of teaching practice also interfere, making teachers quit and choose another professional path (Ryan et al., 2017). The profession has always been rather demanding and stressful, but the increase in teacher turnover rates has become alarming comparatively recently. Hence, it can be assumed that the new tendency is associated with teachers’ personal characteristics and choices.
The exact reasons for this rapid and substantial increase remain unclear, although some studies on the matter have been implemented. Personal factors often serve as mitigating factors under such circumstances, and peer support, mentorship programs, as well as personal traits tend to be the reasons for staying in the profession (Newberry & Allsop, 2017; Nguyen et al., 2020). Redding and Henry (2018) found that the educational background of teachers and the years of working experience play a significant role in the formation of teachers’ commitment to leave or stay. Redding and Henry (2018) ad that university-based education is often a predictor of teacher migration, while degrees from alternative programs and out-of-state preparation enhances teachers’ desire to leave the profession rather than change the school.
The turnover of early-career educators is becoming a particular concern of administrators and policymakers. Recent research suggests that experienced teachers tend to “produce higher rates of student achievement” (Callahan, 2016, p. 6). At the same time, it takes between three and seven years for a teacher to gain sufficient experience to achieve high results. Turnover among new teachers has a substantial adverse impact on the academic achievement of students of color and learners pertaining to other vulnerable groups (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2019). Further prospects of the youth with a low level of education become obscure. Therefore, the high turnover of novices is likely to have serious long-term implications for the community and the overall country.
The financial aspect of the problem is often placed to the fore. It has been estimated that the annual cost of the recruitment, hiring, and training of new members of the faculty was over two billion US dollars in 2012 (Callahan, 2016). In simple terms, educational costs increase, but the quality of the provided services becomes lower owing to new teachers’ unwillingness to remain in the profession. At the same time, the need for a skilled workforce is increasing, so more attention is now paid to the educational sphere these days (Callahan, 2016). The focus is on school teachers, where the turnover rate is alarming compared to higher education.
Researchers have examined the problem in terms of three major domains mentioned above, institutional (external policies), organizational (work environment, load, internal policies, and so on), and personal (job satisfaction, working experience, education, and demographics) (Nguyen et al., 2020). Organizational factors have been investigated with specific precision, which led to the creation of certain school-based projects that became mitigating aspects (Lee, 2019). Among organizational factors, teacher burnout has a positive correlation with teacher turnover (Lee, 2019). Early-career teachers’ psychological traits have also received certain attention, and the correlation between different traits and teachers’ desire to leave has been examined. Kim et al. (2020) found that new teachers’ stress mindset was a predictor of attrition, while those who found benefits in stress remained in the profession.
However, the exact influence of each factor, as well as the correlation between different causes of turnover among new teachers, remains obscure and needs further exploration. It is important to gain insights into the perceived factors forcing early-career out of the profession. The understanding of the causes of teachers’ behavior can be instrumental in introducing the changes necessary for the development of the educational sector. New teachers should be supported and encouraged to continues working and gaining experience, which will have a positive effect on the quality of the provided educational services.
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