Teacher Attrition the First Five Years - A Multifaceted Image

May. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 40, p. 94-103. (May 2014)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article presents statistics from a longitudinal study of attrition within the cohort of 87 Swedish teachers.

The authors used a longitudinal study approach to follow for almost 20 years after 87 teachers, who graduated in December 1993, after 3.5 academic years at a university in a small town in the southeast of Sweden.
The 87 participants consisted of 63 women and 24 men.
The authors used statistics collected on the cohort's rate of attrition and semi-structured questionnaires, exchanged between them and their former lecturer at teacher education.


The findings reveal that combining qualitative data with statistics in a longitudinal study on teachers’ career show that teacher attrition is a more complex and non-linear phenomenon than what is often proposed.

The authors argue that the early leavers consist of a small and heterogenous group of individuals.
The attrition rates of this cohort varies from 29% (according to general overview) to 8% )if we look at the individual and actual outcome in the 19-year perspective).
Teacher drop-outs are in many cases temporary.
Parental leave is, for example, a trigger for attrition in some countries, in others it is not.

However, the considerable changes in educational policy during the 1990s do not seem to have great impact on the decision to leave.
In this survey of 2012, 45% of the “stayers” in the cohort claim that they at least once seriously considered leaving the profession.
When asked about their motives the answers now reflect the impact of the reforms.
Work overload, increased documentation and the notion of altered professional objectives are now often mentioned as triggers for considering leaving.
These arguments are also clearly reflected in the data from the late leavers.

The heterogeneity in the group of leavers and the multifaceted image of attrition during the first five years provide reasons to discuss whether the idea of rational action ignores the role of serendipity in people’s career decision-making.
The majority of the teachers in this cohort belong to Generation X, born 40-45 years ago. There is evidence that schools tend to lose the more able than their less able teachers especially in poorly performing schools.
Regardless of all objections above we must not be distracted from the larger, important point: teacher attrition and turnover are serious problems that can be productively addressed.

Updated: Sep. 23, 2014