Student behavior is the leading cause for teachers leaving

A recent survey of midwestern teachers provides insight on why they are choosing to abandon the profession.

Among a variety of factors that have contributed to the national teacher shortage crisis, student behavior is the number one reason most teachers are opting out of the profession, according to a survey released by Chalkboard Review this week.

Teachers have been making their voices heard as they’re urging district leaders and legislators to make changes to help improve teacher satisfaction and retention. The Mineral Wells Independent School District in Texas, for example, is implementing a four-day school week to help increase competition and attract more teachers.

What has gotten little attention is how student behavior is contributing to the crisis.

Tony Kinnett, co-founder and executive director of Chalkboard Review, set out to understand why so many teachers are leaving the classroom, choosing either to abandon their careers forever or simply switch school districts.

In a survey of 615 midwestern K-12 teachers, respondents were asked their primary reason for leaving. Survey-takers were presented with the following questions:

  1. Given the reasons below, what is the largest reason you’re leaving your position?
  2. If salary were considered an ancillary reason, i.e. “I’m not being paid enough to deal with ____,” what would you suggest is the largest reason you’re leaving the classroom?
  3. Were you a member of a local or national teachers union at some point during the previous academic year?
  4. If the present administration could provide evidence that this specific problem is being dealt with satisfactorily, would you return to this classroom?

Here are the main findings:

  • Of the 615 respondents, 319 said they left for reasons related to student behavior. 138 respondents listed “progressive political activity” as their primary reason. The third highest response was “salary insufficient” with 134 votes.
  • Once pay became an ancillary reason, the responses shifted dramatically. Of the 615 respondents, 447 listed behavior as their primary reason for leaving. 128 listed “progressive political activity” as their primary reason.
  • 356 of the 615 respondents reporting being part of a teachers union in the previous year.
  • Only 21% of respondents said they would return to the classroom if their complaints were resolved.

More from DA: How summer math programs can improve academic success for low-income students

As district leaders continue to develop and implement strategies to increase incentive and improve teacher retention, consider whether the classroom environment is a factor.

One potential solution that benefits all students is to increase communication between principals and counselors. Counselors can have a profound impact on their student body when they are given the proper communication and resources to do their job.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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