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Factors Affecting Teacher Attrition Essay (Literature Review)

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Updated: Jul 26th, 2022


In recent years, decreasing number of teachers become a real problem for educational establishments. The main problems affected teacher attrition involve low salary and lack of administration support, poor working conditions, and inadequate teacher preparation. The literature review will focus on these problems paying attention to current policies and teachers’ attitudes towards reforms. All researchers admit that there is increasing and strong interest among institutions in the position of teachers thus all of them lack a strategic approach to teacher retention strategies and careful planning of future initiatives.

Compensation and Teacher Attrition

The vast layer of literature focuses on compensation problems and low salaries proposed for educators. It is found that the remuneration policy of teachers does not meet state, province, and district policies. In his articles, G. Gaines states that the main problem in teacher attrition research is lack of data and statistical information concerning the real state of the matters on both national and regional levels. In two research articles, Focus on Teacher Salaries and Focus on Teacher Pay and incentives, G Gaines underlines that the main problem is that salary averages do not account for regional and national variations. Using only national and regional data, it is not easy to produce an acceptable system of the wage structure, especially if inflation increases and social values change. According to Gaines (2000), regional remuneration policy prevents many teachers around the country to be paid accordingly to their degree and experience. The research finds that: “Pay often is linked to the highest degree earned”. Recent policies do not establish a systematic means of relating rates of pay to jobs. In theory, remuneration policy is intended to arrive at a rate for a job (usually through negotiation) irrespective of the attributes of individual workers who are employed on the job. Although the scope of job evaluation is unlimited in principle, its applica­tion has been somewhat restricted to groups of relatively homogeneous jobs. The main problem with the current policy is that “two states could have the same salary schedule but different salary averages because one state has a higher percentage of teachers who have more than 20 years’ experience”. Salary ranges should be allocated to each class and sub-class of teachers. This is derived from the previous basic methods and is based upon a points system where points are awarded to significant elements of a job.

Another layer of literature addresses the problems of technical problems and lack of government support. In The Report of the Teaching Commission, M. Cochran-Smith (2004) states that national and regional information systems do not take into account different retirement patterns in each state. For instance, teachers who retire usually are replaced with less-experienced, lower-paid teachers. Similar to M. Cochran-Smith J.W. Guthrie underlines that this policy leads to a decline in salary averages per state. In general, a survey is made of the wage struc­ture, from which several key jobs are selected, representing various wage levels. An analysis is then made to determine the proportion of total wages. As the most important, there is a great difference between the length of teachers’ contracts. Most assessments are inaccurate because the number of grades is small and jobs of a different character are put in the same grade. The researchers agree that decisions accepted on the national or regional levels do not reflect employee benefits per state and lead to teacher attrition. These policies prevent state authorities to value jobs and establish several different pay classes. Also, they do not take into account priorities for quality and expertise which can “raise individual teachers’ salaries by thousands of dollars” . So, no allowance is made for differences displayed in the performance of a job. In addition, they often include a few broad qualities which are characteristic of all jobs to varying degrees.

Quality of Teacher Preparation

The maim layer of literature addresses the problem of teacher retention and quality of teacher education. In his research, Cultivating and Keeping Committed Special Education Teachers, B.S. Billingsley (2005) unveils that many teacher educators find themselves constantly on the defensive and with few allies when educational reformers go looking for easy targets. Reforming teacher education is a popular sport in the United States, and one consequence is that teacher educators are the most regulated of all academicians (which further diminishes their lot within academe) to the point that some state legislators have ordered education professors into the schools regularly to learn what schools are like. Most teacher educators complain about the rigor versus relevance conundrum in which they seem to be inextricably caught and seek to walk the fence, or perhaps build gates in the fence, between academe and schools. We can conclude, however, that the demands on teacher educators for both relevance and rigor are not very compatible without concluding that the balancing act often attempted is as productive as would be the reduction of this role ambiguity. Billingsley (2005) underlines that the administration might look for such clarification in the search for the reasons why greater efforts to achieve relevance do not seem to translate into greater support for teacher education. That search, in turn, might start with a concern for how teachers learn.

A large body of research indicates that beginning teachers often have a very difficult time applying the full range of what they know and can do in “their own classrooms.” This, of course, constrains their professional expertise and limits the positive effects they can have on students. Fiore and Whitaker (2004) stress that many new teachers have such a difficult first year that they decide that a career in teaching will not have the rewards for them that they thought it would11. This leads to decisions to leave teaching. Some studies of teacher attrition estimate that as many as 20 to 25 percent of new teachers leave a school district after their first year. Large-scale induction programs have only recently gained attention. Therefore, there is little research in print which links such programs to teacher performance or attrition. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that such programs are contributing to a more productive and satisfying transition from college to work for many teachers.

I. Rodsen in the book Teacher Retention: What Is Your Weakest Link? suggests that there is reason to believe that most programs would be more effective if mentor teachers had more time and training to undertake this task and if university faculty had more involvement aimed at linking what is being learned on the job with what is being learned in the classroom. Recent research on teacher mentoring suggests that this role is difficult to perform and that it takes time and specific training before most teachers feel comfortable with and are competent in the role. Moreover, the idea that experience is a good teacher of teachers, despite the testimony of many teachers that experience has been their most influential teacher, is increasingly being called into doubt. This research suggests that people learn best from experience when they have been trained to learn in that way and when they have the support from one or more persons who can provide objective feedback, discuss alternative behaviors, and facilitate interpretation of action on their perceptions. The need for induction programs is not seriously questioned in the United States, but some observers believe that most induction programs, which invariably seek to link new teachers with more experienced ones, are usually inadequate.

Administration Support

The research literature recognizes that first-year teachers often have experiences that are unsatisfying professionally and that new teachers fail to implement much of what they learned in their pre-service preparation. It is assumed that induction programs that provide support for new teachers will both increase teacher effectiveness and reduce teacher attrition. Thus, it is found that poor support and lack of administrative initiatives lead to attrition among schools teacher. Another layer of literature, represented by Fiore and Whitaker (2004) and Greiner and Smith (2000), underlines that the transition from college to solo teaching requires a year-long internship in schools that are specially structured to foster the novice teacher’s professional development. There is growing interest in professional development schools – regular schools serving diverse populations and thus different from the university-based lab schools of the past–as the way to achieve effective entry to the teaching profession.

Working Conditions

Researches made by Huling et al (2001), Inman and Marlow (2004), Westling et al (2006) demonstrate that poor working conditions and lack of equipment result in high turnover rates and attrition. Huling et al (2001) underline that the grading system has been in use in all the states, although the organization of schools differs according to grades and levels. These differences in school organization, combined with other developments such as full or partial integration or continuous progress plans that eliminate grades, the existence of many schools of differing sizes and policies about subject specialization, and self-contained classrooms, all point to the need for teachers who can teach in a wide range of organizational patterns. Schools in several states have been introduced to school-based management wherein they are not involved in planning and other decisions about school operation. This change in the locus of decision making requires the preparation of teachers in areas formerly reserved for administrators.

Almost all researchers underline that education institutions in America are experiencing problems securing adequate financial resources. Guthrie, J.W (1999) underlines that selection of student intakes based on secondary education scores is a relatively resource-free process. Interviewing students, analyzing references, and observing in situ performances are cost-intensive processes. The same position is shared by Billingsley (1999) who states that higher education administrators are not able to meet the costs of such selection procedures. However, the advocates of such careful selection processes argue that they are cost effective in the longer term in that course attrition rates are lowered and that committed and able students make higher quality inputs to the teaching profession. At present the “resource guardians” hold sway.


The literature review shows that teacher attrition is caused by numerous factors affected modern education. Fairly static ratios and school enrollments imply a consistent demand for teachers, provided that current attrition rates and school policies remain unchanged. In this respect, a significant development in recent years has been the pressure by teachers’ organizations, through collective bargaining, to reduce pupil-teacher ratios and to receive more planning time. School boards and teachers, in their bargaining, tend to refer to research evidence or the lack of it pertaining to reduced ratios and their impact on student learning. Administration costs, the number of administrators and their salaries, have also entered the negotiations. All these demands, if met, will have a direct impact on the number of teachers required. The development of several political, economic, and social scenarios (proposing “what if” options) that are likely to prevail in the future appears to offer promise in applying the above factors more meaningfully. Thus, strategic planning can utilize alternatives in interpreting and applying the data so as to match the scenario developed, leading to greater reliability of the projection techniques. Researchers underline that teacher attrition can be eliminated, if the local and federal administration pays more attention to current problems and teachers position at schools. The likelihood that the collaborating colleges will in time press for and succeed in acquiring full independence in responsibility for teacher education. Such a change would markedly increase the number of teacher preparation institutions, with significant impact on quality control and financial allocation for programs. It would also have an impact on the nature of the programs and on the status of teaching as a profession.


  1. Billingsley, B.S. Cultivating and Keeping Committed Special Education Teachers: What Principals and District Leaders Can Do. Corwin Press, 2005.
  2. Billingsley, B.S. Special Education Teacher Retention and Attrition: A Critical Analysis of the Research Literature. Journal of Special Education 38, no. 1 (2004): 39.
  3. Cochran-Smith, M. The Report of the Teaching Commission: What’s Really at Risk? Journal of Teacher Education, 5, no 3, (2004): 195.
  4. Fiore, D.J., Whitaker, T. Six Types Of Teachers: Recruiting, Retaining, And Mentoring The Best. Eye on Education, 2004.
  5. Gaines, G. Focus on Teacher Salaries: What Teacher Salary Averages Don’t Show. 2000.
  6. Gaines, G. . 2004. Web.
  7. Greiner, C.S., Smith, B. Determining the Effect of Selected Variables on Teacher Retention. Education 126, no. 4, (2006): 653.
  8. Guthrie, J.W. A Response to John Goodlad’s Whither Schools of Education? Unless Other Changes Occur, They Might Well Wither. Journal of Teacher Education 50, no 5, (1999): 363.
  9. Huling, L., Resta, V., Rainwater, N. The Case for a Third Alternative. Journal of Teacher Education 52, no. 4, (2001): 326.
  10. Inman, D., Marlow, L. Teacher Retention: Why Do Beginning Teachers Remain in the Profession? Education 124, no. 4, (2004): 605.
  11. Rodsen, I. Teacher Retention: What Is Your Weakest Link? Eye on Education, 2002.
  12. Westling, D.L. et al. The Teacher Support Program: A Proposed Resource for the Special Education Profession and an Initial Validation. Remedial and Special Education 27, no. 3, (2006): 136.
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