High-stakes tests blamed for high teacher turnover

Georgia’s top school leader says there is a “growing crisis” with teacher turnover that is driven in large part by the emphasis on high-stakes tests.

Seeking to understand what has been causing a high “dropout” rate among new public school teachers, State Superintendent Richard Woods called for an online survey that appears to have attracted a vast swath of the state’s teachers. The top complaint: the number of mandatory tests and their use in judging job performance.

Tests will soon comprise half of each teacher's performance evaluation and possibly affect their pay.

» PHOTOS: The top 8 reasons why Georgia teachers are leaving the profession

» LEARN MORE: Read the survey results here

“People become teachers knowing the pay is low, but they do not expect to spend so much time doing what often amounts to meaningless assessments,” one anonymous respondent, identified only as an elementary school teacher from Henry County, wrote in the survey.

Anyone could respond to the online survey, but Georgia Department of Education officials believe the 53,000 people who did were mostly teachers.

After tests and evaluations, the top complaints were that teachers feel devalued and left out of education policy decisions, while being required to take on more paperwork. Pay wasn’t a top concern for most, although it was a bigger deal in metro Atlanta where the cost of living is higher. Money for school resources, the quality of training and school leadership were also concerns, with the quality of new teacher preparation being of least concern.

Woods called the results "enlightening." He ordered the survey after the state Professional Standards Commission reported in the fall that 44 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years, a turnover rate that Woods' education department deemed an "alarming" trend. Schools are reporting a teacher shortage.

Two out of three respondents said they are “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to recommend teaching as a profession for high school students.

Woods said he will work with the state school board and lawmakers to reduce the amount of testing required for higher-performing students. But Gov. Nathan Deal has said he will ask the Georgia General Assembly to implement merit-based pay for teachers, which could ratchet up the testing pressure.

You can see the top eight reasons teachers leave the profession here.