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Why good teachers leave the profession

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Teachers leave the profession regularly, especially the good ones, money is one reason, but it isn’t the primary one.

Based on US figures from Gallup, the primary reason teachers gave for leaving their last job was career advancement or development; 60% of teachers who left voluntarily said a lack of career advancement was why they were going elsewhere.

Many teachers might not have felt challenged in their work or received individualised opportunities to grow and advance, so they left their job. Though there are professional development pathways available, their one size fits all approach largely ignores the individual’s needs.

Pay or benefits was the next most cited reason for leaving, with 13% of teachers who left proffering this reason. Low pay, especially early in an educator's career, could stifle the attractiveness of the profession.

Despite a prevailing focus on low teacher pay, teachers actually mentioned their pay as the reason they left their last job at a lower rate compared with other workers. One in four (24%) non-teachers voluntarily left their last job because of pay.

Turnover can cost an organization anywhere from one-half to five times the employee's salary. The number varies as it’s hard to measure both hard costs, such as advertising and training and unseen costs, such as the impact on team morale and student relationships.

How to keep your best teachers
Finding and retaining good staff is hard so schools must work to differentiate their employee value proposition to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented teachers. There are four ways leaders might find and keep good staff.

Know who is in your candidate pool
The vast majority of new teachers entering the profession are millennials and the offer schools make to new employees needs to be tailored to this generation’s requirements.

Millennial job seekers are most attracted to workplaces that provide opportunities to learn and grow, however 48% of millennials say that remuneration is extremely important to them when seeking new job opportunities. Millennial teachers want both a paycheck and a purpose-driven career.

Engineer an exit survey program to better understand leavers’ thinking
We need to understand why people are leaving the school and exit survey programs are a good place to begin. An effective exit process enables schools to reduce turnover and improve teachers’ engagement by making change by listening to and acting on the reasoning given for leaving.

Use predictive turnover analytics
By visualising what might happen, predictive turnover analytics could help uncover risk factors for turnover which would allow leaders to anticipate and mitigate problems before teachers leave.

Managers should conduct predictive turnover analyses using employee engagement data, performance data, demographics, principal/parent metrics and information about school- and team-level environments. Pairing teacher survey, performance and employment data with information about intention to stay or leave the school can be a powerful, data-driven exercise that slows staff turnover.

Engage your top talent to stop them from leaving
According to recent Gallup data, only 34% of teachers are engaged in their job. Further, Gallup analytics show that 46% of K–12 teachers report high daily stress during the school year.

When talented, high-performing employees are not engaged in their job, they are just as likely as disengaged, low performers to quit their job. To engage teachers, leaders must provide a path for them to follow to boost their development, have creativity and autonomy in the classroom, and create a thriving learning environment for students.

Leaders should measure teacher engagement in their district and encourage school-level conversations and action planning to improve engagement and teacher retention.

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