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The High School Journal 86.3 (2003) 1-7

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Darrell Cleveland, Ph.D.
Holy Family College

Presently, the teaching profession is experiencing a massive shortage in the U. S. Shortages are especially high in large urban school districts and small rural school districts. Several reasons contribute to this crisis, which in turn produce other problems in classrooms. Ingersoll (1999A) found 42 percent of departures result from job dissatisfaction, the desire to pursue another career, or improve career opportunities in or out of education. Ingersoll (1999A) also noted that teachers in high-poverty and urban public schools depart because of job dissatisfaction, student discipline problems, lack of student motivation, lack of support from the administration, low salaries, and lack of influence over decision-making. Teacher shortages will continue as a result of increased school enrollment, high retirement rates, shifting urban demographics, and higher standards for teacher certification (Hidalgo, 1985). In his annual State of American Education Address, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley (2000) asserted, "We need over two million teachers in the next ten years. We have a growing shortage of teachers in several critical fields including math and science . . . ."

The national teacher shortage can also be attributed to the high number of beginning teachers who leave the field of education. Plisko and Strern (1985) reported freshman students selecting teaching as a profession decreased from 19.3% in 1970 to 4.7% in 1982. However, graduates of teacher education programs rose 49 percent from 134,870 in 1983 to 200,545 in 1998 (Curran, Abrahams, & Manuel, 2000). Although adequate numbers of teachers complete teacher education programs, only 60 percent accept teaching positions and of this 60 percent, 30 to 50 percent leave the teaching profession within the first five years (American Council of Education, 1999). Weiss (1999) asserts that:

Too many new teachers become initiated into a profession that too often sets them up to fail. The system seems to neglect the fact that new teachers are exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of unsupportive workplace conditions; precisely because never having taught before, they lack the [End Page 1] resources and tools to deal with the frustrations of the workplace . . .. Because the system does not capitalize on new teachers' zeal and in many cases fails even to recognize their special situation, many are leaving or becoming demoralized . . .. (p. 869)

First-year teachers are 2.5 times more likely to leave the profession than their more experienced counterparts. An additional 15% of beginning teachers will leave after their second year and still another 10% will leave after the third year. The turnover rate of new teachers does not settle at the overall rate of 6% until the fifth or sixth year (Croasmun, Hampton, & Herrmann, 1997).

Of all beginning teachers who enter the profession, 40-50% will leave during the first seven years of their career, and in excess of two-thirds of those will do so in the first four years of teaching (Croasmun, Hampton, & Herrmann, 1997; Huling-Austin, 1986). Most beginning teachers leave the teaching profession for various reasons such as discipline and school violence, lack of support from administration, parents, veteran teachers, and low wages. Haggstrom, Darling-Hammond, and Grissmer (1988) found that:

High turnover during the first five years of teaching can be explained by several factors. Individuals may leave because of a mismatch between original expectations and actual experience as teachers, or because of attractive outside opportunities. Incoming teachers often get the least desirable assignments, spend more time preparing for classes, and lack an established support network. (p. 15)

A third factor, teacher salaries, also plays a significant role in teacher's decisions to enter or stay in teaching. According to the 1987-88 Teacher Follow-up Survey, 4.5% of public school teachers stated salary as a main reason for leaving the profession (Croasmun, Hampton, & Herrmann, 1997). These same authors also reported that teachers leave for higher paying jobs in other professions. Curran, Abrahams, and Manuel (2000) found that in 1998, the average starting salary for new teachers was $25,735 while the average starting salaries for graduates in other professions...


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