Too many teachers are quitting, experts warn

By Janet Bagnall | Published February 1 by The Montreal Gazette

False allegations of misconduct are one element in a toxic brew of problems driving an extraordinary number of teachers out of the education field, say educational experts.

“Across North America, nearly half of all new teachers leave the field within five years,” said Jon G. Bradley, associate professor of education at McGill University. In Alberta, one of the few provinces to collect data, the figure is 40 per cent within five years. Figures for Quebec were not available, but believed to be similar to the North American average.

The education field is in crisis, said Bradley. “It’s almost as though we’re doing everything in our power to discourage these fully trained, committed people from making teaching a career,” he said. But if the growing incidence of false allegations is the “elephant in the room” that no one wants to talk about, it’s not the only problem. Other frustrations for teachers include low social status, relatively low salary levels, the lack of merit pay and a sense of failure, he said.

“Any other profession that had that kind of turnover would look at working conditions, would look at salaries and other things surrounding the teaching environment,” said Joel Westheimer, university research chair and professor at the University of Ottawa’s faculty of education. “Instead, in education, we bring up talk about testing teachers and linking their pay to the students’ performance. I mean, can you imagine Microsoft suffering a crisis because there were not enough programmers going into the profession and leaving after the first five years? Would (the company’s) response be to increase salaries, recruit better people, change working conditions so that they could work in different places, have free soda and free lunches? Or would it test them?”

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