There is growing consensus among researchers and educators that teacher quality is one of the most significant school influences on student achievement. Even low-performing students facing barriers to learning can achieve high standards if they are taught by highly effective professional teachers. Yet, every school day, nearly a thousand teachers leave the field of teaching. Why is teacher turnover so high? Teachers cite a lack of support and poor working conditions among the primary factors.
Beginning teachers are particularly vulnerable, because they are more likely to be assigned low-performing students than are their more experienced colleagues. Despite the added challenges that come with teaching children and adolescents with higher needs, most beginners are given no professional support, feedback, or demonstration of what it takes to help their students succeed. The result is that new teachers are most at risk of leaving the teaching profession. In fact, 14 percent of new teachers leave by the end of their first year; 33 percent have left within three years; and nearly 50 percent have left by the end of their fifth year of teaching.
Experts debate the severity of teacher attrition compared to other industries, but they cannot dispute the cost. Estimated conservatively, American schools spend more than $2.6 billion annually replacing teachers who have dropped out of the profession. Many analysts believe that the price is actually much larger, pointing out that the loss in teacher quality and student achievement must be added to the bill.