Even Teachers in Excellence Programs Burn Out Quickly

Education Ministry investing large sums in attracting high-quality teachers, but study finds an alarmingly high dropout rate.

Some 40 percent of new teachers quit the teaching profession within six to eight years after graduating, according to a study conducted recently on behalf of the Education Ministry.

The study compared 500 teachers from two groups: graduates of regular teaching programs and those from outstanding students programs.

In recent years, the Ministry has been investing large sums in attracting high-quality teachers, in part, by opening programs for outstanding students at the teachers colleges, which grant full scholarships, an accelerated program and other perks. In return, the students are required to teach for at least three years after completing their degree.

The recent study of some 500 teachers compared the job satisfaction of those who had graduated from regular programs, with those who had studied at the outstanding students programs. The dropout rates for both groups of teachers were similar -- about 40 percent quit within six to eight years of graduating, according to the study by the president of the Kibbutz Seminar College, Prof. Tzipi Liebman, along with Dr. Ditza Maskit and Hila Ackerman Asher. This figure is similar to those found in various other studies over the years, and to the statistics in other Western nations.

But there was a difference in the explanations given by the two groups for leaving teaching: Among the outstanding student program graduates the main reasons concerned their employment conditions, namely, salary, bad experiences in the field and the way the system treats them. However, they were more satisfied than the other teachers were with their work with the students.

Over a quarter of the outstanding students program graduates, 27 percent, said the main reason they quit teaching was the salary. Another 28 percent said the profession was inappropriate for them; that they did not fit in and left. Another 24 percent of these respondents said their teaching experience was bad because of the conditions in the school and work environment. Only 5 percent of the outstanding graduates said that teaching was just a temporary stage in their careers.

The researchers said this showed that most of the students intended on choosing teaching as a profession and remaining in it out of a sense of mission and purpose. Surprisingly, some 11 percent of these students said they could not find teaching jobs. “These findings are a warning sign for the educational system and require the attention of the responsible authorities,” wrote the authors of the study.

Some 36 percent of the graduates of the outstanding teachers programs said their connection with the students was the source of their satisfaction from teaching, compared to only 20 percent of the teachers from the regular programs.

Of the teachers who said they were dissatisfied with their jobs, 38 percent cited the recent reforms in the educational system as the reason, citing the bureaucracy involved.

“The moment the state invests so much, it is possible to expect they would do more so that they would remain," said Liebman. "What is being done in the field is not enough. It seems the surrounding system does not value them sufficiently,” she added.

Other figures show that there is a problem providing support for all new teachers, not just the graduates of the new programs. Over a third of the respondents said there was no one in their new schools who helped them in getting started in teaching.

Liebman says that it is possible the highly qualified new teachers are actually “over qualified.” “In other fields human resource managers also don’t like over-qualified people, who are more talented than required for the job, since they tend to be less satisfied. It is possible that many more teachers who graduated from the outstanding students programs could have remained in the system if they received signals that they were counting on them and wanted them,” she said. "It is possible they feel they are going to waste. They may like the work with the children but it is not worth it, they expected more.

“A few years ago they did not even worry about finding them jobs and [the new teachers] had to run around. Today at least there is someone who arranges the placement in work, but there is no special help,” said Liebman. Something in the process must be improved, she added.

The study showed that the teachers who had graduated from special programs for outstanding students felt the programs improved their teaching skills; 95 percent thought it was important for the educational system to invest in such programs. These teachers also tend to teach in the higher grades, and more of them teach the subjects they were trained to teach. In addition, some 40 percent of them teach in special and private schools, compared to only a quarter of the graduates of the regular training programs.