NJ Teachers Leaving Profession More Often


By Michael Hill

She just graduated from Montclair State University and is ready to jump in to a teaching career this fall.

“I was just a little girl who was playing school in her room with invisible students way before I ever really knew what it meant to be a teacher,” said Samantha Stiner.

Stiner — recognized as a distinguished student teacher — will join a profession that’s undergoing big changes.

“We’re seeing an increase in the percentage of teachers who do not make it to five years in their teaching career before they leave for another career,” said Seton Hall Assistant Professor Daniel Katz.

Dr. Katz says historically a third of teachers leave the profession before five years. In urban areas he says it’s even higher than 50 percent, with students in those urban areas frequently getting the blame for causing teacher burnout. But he says a recent Harvard University study faults working conditions and lack of support.

“They need to be supported. There needs to be a culture of collaboration, a culture of support within the schools. Where that doesn’t exist, people leave,” Katz said.

And recently, Gov. Christie signed a measure that puts less reliance on test scores to judge teachers performance. That may come a little late for some veteran teachers who left the profession in New Jersey at numbers almost the double what they were a few years ago. The teachers association says test scores get some of that blame.

“The veteran staff are leaving in droves. The folks coming in to replace them are not sticking around to make teaching their careers. Going back to the original question, that is where we think we may end up with a potential teacher shortage down the road. IF both of those trend continue, obviously we’re going to end up not having enough people staffing our classrooms ,” said NJEA Executive Director Ed Richardson.

One longtime South Jersey teacher says we’re losing the art of teaching and putting too much emphasis on the science of teaching. And here at Seton Hall University, Dr. Katz says that’s a result of the push and the urge to reform.

“We are looking for teacher effectiveness in a lot of the wrong places. It’s not that teachers shouldn’t be held accountable for teaching students. Obviously, they should be. But, the impact that a teacher has on a young person goes well beyond what can be measured on standardized tests — academically, socially, emotionally. How do you measure inspiration? And that’s a reallyimportant part of what our best teachers do,” Katz said.

And that’s what Samantha Stiner says she can’t wait to do.

“I also often ask myself the question of how can I do the most good in the world? And for me the answer to that is by being a teacher,” Stiner said.

Dr. Katz believes the teaching profession needs that enthusiasm and that teachers need more support to get the job done effectively.