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.

  • mike

    the sad part is that district administrators are not standing up for what is right!! They were all once teachers and they fall in lime like lemmings to the sea! Take a stand, this fight can not just come from the classroom teacher..

  • Betty

    Most teachers who enter teaching do not complete their work career as teachers. Some have traditionally left for better paying, less stressful jobs. Many women leave teaching to raise their families and never return after the children are raised unless the family income demands that they return.
    We are in the process of losing lots of baby boomer teachers. Female teachers who entered teaching in the mid to late 1970’s entered before other career paths were open for females. Since the 1970’s female teachers have other professional career options open to them.
    Baby boomer male teachers often entered teaching to avoid the military draft. They stayed and many were great teachers. Without the draft, fewer men opt to teach.
    I think a certain group will always want to teach but the teachers need more input with changes in their work environment if you hope to keep them motivated for a 30+ year career. Too many mandated from people who have never taught in a public school.
    However, we need to attract and keep teachers. No one seems to realize the cost to the students, the profession of teaching or the district/taxpayers to continually lose new teachers after a handful of years.

  • John

    As a middle of the pack teacher of 10 years, the last few years has made the profession “not what I signed up for.” As such, my family is relocating to a “Southern” State and I am not sure if I want to be a teacher when we move. I am so turned off by much of the education reform that I believe this relocation is an opportunity to try something new. I never thought I would look at my education license as a “fall back” but there is too much politics in education for me to love my job.

  • Rob

    I left teaching after eleven years in one district. It literally went from an “awesome” job that I felt good about every day to an oppressive “follow the script” grind. No creativity, no deviation, no inspiration, just follow these programs, do what they do in the training videos and you are a “good teacher”.

  • Randy

    Lack of support was the primary reason that I left teaching. The school administrators wanted engaging teaching with the students, but wouldn’t allow anything but sit in the seats “at attention” methods.