Today’s Top 5 Reasons Why Teachers Quit Teaching

Most teachers go into teaching because they simply can’t imagine doing anything else. They love their work, and they’re certainly not in it for the money or the fame. The teaching profession is filled with selfless, devoted people. So why are so many of them saying goodbye to the classroom?  Join me as I show you Today’s Top 5 Reasons Why Teachers Quit Teaching.

The Teacher Shortage

The problem is real. According to the National Education Association, more than 40% of teachers leave the profession within five years. Teachers who received alternate certifications are more likely to leave than those who went through standard teacher training and certification.

These departures are causing a teacher shortage across the country, with schools in minority communities the hardest hit.

What’s leading to this mass exodus? Here are the top five reasons why teachers quit teaching.

1. Low Pay and Budget Cuts

This is the top reason that schools are losing teachers. It’s also the top reason that schools can’t recruit qualified candidates. The news in recent years has featured wave after wave of teacher walkouts in states across the country, as teachers protest low pay and strapped budgets that leave them unable to buy basic classroom supplies.

In fact, the pay issues is so important that some people argue that the so-called shortage would disappear if states simply increased teachers’ salaries. That’s a straightforward solution that some states are adopting, but education departments have to balance their needs against competing demands in state and local budgets.

A Logical Solution?

Other states are responding with bills that aim to punish teachers for walking off the job, but those measures probably won’t do much to stem the tide of quitting teachers.

It does seem logical that higher pay and higher school budgets would lead to teachers who were more qualified, more committed to staying and less likely to leave. In reality, low pay is just one of the factors, although it may be the most important one.

2. Too Much Testing

According to many teachers, their workload and ability to teach are overwhelmed by the fixation on standardized tests. These teachers agree that a baseline measurement of children’s learning is necessary, but they say they also need time to develop creative learning plans and get to know their students individually.

Fixation on Testing

Recently, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a television interview that a focus on testing scores does not give teachers time for true engagement with their students.

She also pointed out that, “Other countries in the world don’t do this. We’re the only ones who fixate this much on testing.” Considering that U.S. schools only score mediocre grades against their international counterparts in industrial countries, it might be time for American schools to consider other options.

Does Standardized Testing Work?

In a recent article for Forbes, former teacher Peter Greene criticized the tests as opaque, time-consuming and ultimately pointless.

“The assessments that teachers create on their own, administer to students and then examine in detail, are far more useful for informing instruction,” he wrote. “The tests now taking up hours of school time may be helping somebody, somewhere, but not anybody who actually works inside those schools.”

It’s not just teachers who are fighting the tests. Many parents are protesting the fixation with standardized tests that don’t seem to be a true measure of their children’s abilities. If too many teachers feel hampered by them and don’t feel that the results are worth it, they’ll just give up teaching.

3. Lack of Support

While many teachers complain about lack of support, support is a difficult quality to measure. Most teachers are looking for support from their school administrators, especially their principals. This is especially important for new teachers who are just learning the ropes.

What Kind of Support Do Teachers Want?

Most teachers agree that their principals and administrators can help them out if they do the following:

  • Have their back. This means listening to the teacher’s side in disputes with teachers and students. Teachers want to know that their point of view is at least being heard.
  • Allow for collaboration. Teachers who can work together on various projects are more likely to feel satisfied and successful at work. It’s a good way to share experience and talents. It also creates a more productive working environment.
  • Avoid arbitrary rule changes. It’s understandable that a new principal will want to make constructive changes to how a school operates, but those changes can be jarring to established teachers. Principals who introduce changes in a collaborative way are more likely to get the support of teachers for those changes.
  • Offer advice and encouragement. Many teachers would appreciate a principal who shares their experience. Teachers also want to feel that their principal is allowing them to develop professionally.

4. Better Opportunities

In 2018, employees of public schools at all levels quit their jobs in record numbers. According to the Wall Street Journal, educators, administrators, kitchen staff and janitors all walked off at a rate of 83 workers for every 10,000 during the first 10 months of 2018.

The improved job market could be one reason why teachers quit teaching.

According to the article, funding for schools has not kept up with inflation and has not returned to pre-recession levels. Many education budgets were cut during the recession, but once the economy rebounded, funding levels for schools stayed low.

Better Jobs

Teachers quoted in the article said that they were still expected to perform well in the face of these budget cuts. Instead, a good job market means that they can leave for greener pastures. Most teachers are well-educated, and they may find it easier to find better jobs than to continue battling the school system.

“The educators may be finding new jobs at other schools, or leaving education altogether,” the Journal reported. “The departures come alongside protests this year in six states where teachers in some cases shut down schools over tight budgets, small raises and poor conditions.”

5. Burnout

Professions that involve helping people and getting involved in their lives have high burnout rates. Teachers go into their line of work primarily to help others, and their burnout rate is high.

Writing in Psychology Today, psychologist Jenny Grant Rankin reported on numerous studies testifying to the emotional drain of teaching. She called burnout “epidemic” among teachers. Rankin listed the top contributors to burnout as:

  • Excessive workload.
  • Inadequate resources.
  • Tedium.
  • Student behavior.
  • Lack of support from administrators, parents and the community.

Future Trends

To understand why teachers quit teaching, it’s important understand that these reasons are interrelated.

Budget cuts lead to more work for teachers. A high workload comes along with lower pay and fewer resources to do their jobs. Meanwhile, teachers are still expected to perform at high levels. It’s not surprising that they’re getting burnt out and leaving.


Do any of my five points match your experiences in the classroom?  If continuing on like this just isn’t for you, take a look at my #1 recommendation for escaping the classroom.

It’s a great resource for learning how to promote yourself, your aspirations, and your special concerns and is the place where I have learned everything you see on this website.

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8 thoughts on “Today’s Top 5 Reasons Why Teachers Quit Teaching”

  1. Quite a  loaded topic! Having seen a child through public school in a huge district, I can relate.

    It seems that the teachers who were in place in crucial years (like the first year of middle school) ended up being tied to a program that most parents did not like (perhaps because of homework till 1 am every night?).

    And then this program was dumped just as my child moved on to high school. Then this HS tried an experiment of being “five different schools” within the school. That got dumped too.

    I can’t imagine how the teachers felt, doing extra training for these programs that then get abandoned. There is no way a teacher can develop their own talent when they never get the chance.

    It is an area of huge problems, while the rest of the world moves on.

    • Boy, can I relate to your experiences.  Most of my teaching career saw a new improved program introduced at the beginning of each school year.  After a few years of this procedure, it’s easy to become jaded.  Especially when you could see how the new program was going to negatively impact your students.  

      You’re right.  It’s difficult to ever really develop your techniques and methods in this kind of environment.  The worst problem is that the groups of students who suffered through a crummy program don’t get a re-do.  They are moved on to the next grade level, and it’s hoped they can fill in the gaps in coming following years. 

      I’m so glad you took the time to join in the conversation!

      • When I taught at the United States Naval Nuclear Power School, we had the exact opposite problem. They were so fanatically resistant to change that they were still using the same methods they had been using for the last 30 years. It was a lot of lecture and copying notes. It was like pulling teeth to get them to implement any research-validated instructional techniques. Once we did the benefits were immense. There were some early failures but fortunately they had the persistence to correct them and move ahead. In the vast majority of instructional reforms, stakeholders quit in the face of early challenges.

        • You are so right about stakeholders quitting when challenges appear. As a public school teacher, it became increasingly difficult to become enthusiastic about new programs when the district rolled out a new one at the beginning of each new school year. We were never given the opportunity to remain with a program long enough to assess its benefits. As a result, it became almost impossible to take anything administration said seriously. Just lots of feel good comments and very little substance that would have helped students.

          Thanks for joining the conversation; I appreciate it!

  2. I am a teacher, although of the arts, and I can see why so many walk out of this profession. They feel unappreciated by their students and their employees.  They work themselves to the bone and get burnout and are asked to do far more than the call of duty allows for.

    Teachers are valuable assets in communities and everything should be done to avoid the problems you mentioned, and keep the good teachers working at educating our youth.

    Here in South Africa we also have a chronic shortage of teachers, and many of them are moving overseas to greener pastures.

    • I suspect that most people would assume that teachers are just being uncooperative when they talk about all of the extra duties.  However, we know that pushing people to their limit, and then pushing some more, will have negative consequences.  

      I’m not sure why the contributions that teachers make are so under-valued.  I think it may be time to begin some serious conversations about how we “do” education.  

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

  3. I am so glad I came across this article. My sister is a High School Teacher and says that often there is not enough money in the school budget. 

    I had begun to take classes to become a teacher, but when it came time to do the In school training I saw what it was like first hand.  I decided it was just too much, the classroom I was in there just wasn’t enough support from the administration staff. 

    I also could not make any money and the amount of time you spend it just doesn’t add up. You are paid a salary so no matter how many hours you put in, it is the same pay. Everything you stated is so true, I would not have realized it except I went through it. 

    I thank you for the article and I am going to send it to my sister.


    • There are so many things about teaching people don’t realize.  I’ve noticed that when a parent volunteers in the classroom over an extended period of time, they begin commenting on how much more difficult the job is than they had realized.  And yes, administration can pile on the duties, and there is no increase in salary.  Money is always an issue.  Perhaps it’s time to rethink how we “do” and pay for our public schools.  Thanks for joining the conversation!


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