Workload, Standardized Tests Lead Teachers to Quit

(CN) – About half of all new teachers who thought they knew what they were getting into at the start of their careers meet a stark reality that leads them to consider leaving the profession in the first decade: the workload and “teaching to the test.”

While most new teachers want to make a difference in the lives of their students, their altruistic drive tends to gradually wear down and within the first 10 years they consider quitting to improve their work-life balance, says the study published Monday in the British Journal of Educational Studies.

Researchers asked approximately 1,200 teachers, new graduates from the University College London, why they wanted to become educators in the first place. Despite 75% saying they viewed teaching as a long-term career choice, about half the respondents either left or considered leaving the job within the first 10 years.

The 10-year window is enough time for teachers to fully understand the amount of work they need to dedicate to assessment, exams, progress measures and preparation for review and inspection. And they find a lot less of the pie is dedicated to the unique or creative aspects that appealed to them when they first went into the profession.

About 70% said they wanted to make a difference in their students’ lives, 64% said they wanted to motivate and work with young people and just half said it was because of their love of a subject.

While that passion might have propelled them into the profession, multiple factors chipped away at the teachers’ armor.

From those who left the profession, 75% said they wanted a better work-life balance, 71% blamed the workload and 57% said they quit teaching due to the target-drive culture – preparing for test scores and improving previous student achievement goals.

Study authors from the UCL Institute of Education ask what can be done to turn around this trend, but the British government believes reducing workload and increasing pay will do the trick.

“This may help, and our study does continue the discourse that workload is key,” the study authors said in a statement. “However, it also indicates that part of the problem lies within the culture of teaching, the constant scrutiny, the need to perform, and hyper-critical management. Reducing workload will not address these cultural issues.”

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