Drew Morris, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Craig Middle School, pauses near a stack of textbooks in his classroom after school Wednesday. Morris, a first-year teacher, said he plans to continue teaching in the Moffat County School District next year. In a study released this year, The Alliance for Quality Teaching reported that teacher attrition rates usually are highest at the beginning and end of a teacher's career.

Photo by David Pressgrove

Drew Morris, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Craig Middle School, pauses near a stack of textbooks in his classroom after school Wednesday. Morris, a first-year teacher, said he plans to continue teaching in the Moffat County School District next year. In a study released this year, The Alliance for Quality Teaching reported that teacher attrition rates usually are highest at the beginning and end of a teacher's career.

Teacher attrition rate up

Study indicates multiple factors influence teachers' decisions to quit


By the numbers

Teacher attrition rates at Moffat County School District • Yearly average: About 10 percent • 2007-08 school year: 24 licensed staff, or 15 percent

— Drew Morris, Craig Middle School eighth-grade social studies teacher, said there are some things that can't be taught in a college classroom.

Morris learned that lesson for himself this year as a new teacher.

"Some things you just couldn't be prepared for," he said.

Still, Morris said he plans to stick with teaching in the Moffat County School District next year.

"I like what I do," he said. "It can't get worse.

"It can only get better."

Other teachers in the school district made a different choice.

During the 2007-08 school year, 24 teachers and other licensed staff left their positions in the school district, creating about a 15 percent attrition rate, Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said.

That's about a five-percent increase from the school district's average attrition rate in recent years.

"We generally turn over 10 percent of our teachers per year," Sheridan said, adding that most teachers leave the district for retirement.

The problem: New teachers aren't coming into the district as quickly as retiring teachers are leaving it.

"There's not enough people going into the field of education to fill all the slots we need," Sheridan said.

It's not that the vacant slots aren't filled by the time school begins again in the fall.

"We always fill them," Sheridan said.

Rather, the concern is finding teachers who carry the experience and credentials the school district seeks in new candidates.

"It's a matter of how highly qualified" the new teachers are, Sheridan said. "Obviously, you'd want someone with 20 years experience and a master's degree."

However, a lack of applicants sometimes requires the school district to hire a less-qualified candidate, Sheridan said, including those who have taken the minimal amount of college coursework in their licensed area.

"We just do the best we can with filling the slots," he said.

Sheridan said he believes several factors influence why more college graduates aren't entering the education field.

"I think we have fewer people wanting extracurricular" responsibilities, including coaching, he said.

A teacher's average yearly pay may also discourage some graduates from becoming teachers.

"Obviously, it's not the highest paying position that people can reach," Sheridan said.

"We're certainly not attracting new ones to the profession because of" the annual wage, he said.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, teacher salaries in Moffat County averaged about $45,000 in 2006.

In contrast, a dental hygienist in Colorado may enter his or her career with an entry-level wage of about $61,000, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

In recent years, teacher attrition has garnered the attention of state education officials.

The Alliance for Quality Teaching, a state group, recently released a study investigating possible reasons why some teachers decide to leave the profession.

The study named teaching salaries and employment opportunities available outside of the education field as reasons why teachers walk away from the classroom.

The study also reported teacher attrition rates are usually highest at the beginning and end of a teacher's career.

Research indicates other districts across the state are facing teacher attrition rates close to those found in Moffat County.

Between 1998 and 2004, the state teacher attrition rate has ranged from 14 percent to 16 percent, the study reported.

Those figures eventually have an impact in the classroom.

"Districts and schools with relatively high rates of teacher attrition are likely to have more inexperienced teachers and, as a result, instructional quality and student learning suffer," the study reported.


50cal 8 years, 11 months ago

buck I agree with your post, one thing only. not all thosewho are leaving are teachers like you describe. hopefully we find more that are dedicated like you describe to replace those who are leaving.


50cal 8 years, 11 months ago

those are the ones we need,you can see the ones who care


AltitudeAdjustment 8 years, 11 months ago

Great article this morning. I am sorry to hear that we are having trouble recruiting and retaining teachers in our district. I guess I can understand why a lot of teachers are calling it quits. I think it has more to do with smaller class budgets, more red-tape, lack of class room controll, and dealing with difficult parents, and kids who are not taught to respect their teachers. I do find it hard to believe that people aren't going into teaching because of the pay. Pay has never been the goal of those going into the profession. Take a highschool kid who has only earned eight bucks an hour and tell him you are going to pay him 30,000 a year and they are pretty happy. A few years down the road though they find out they can earn a lot more working somewhere elsee and they leave the profession all together.

While a teacher's yearly pay of 45,000 is less than what a dental hygenist makes, you need to take in to consideration some important factors. One, they only work about 180 days a year. Second, School starts at 8:00 and ends at 3:00. Take in to consideration that most school teachers have a preparation hour and lunch they only have a six hour work day. That means they only have to work 1,080 hours per year, which is half of what a full time employee in other professions have to work (2,080) this means if they are making 45,000 per year they are being paid around $41.00 per hour, and that's not bad in my book. Summers off, all major holidays, spring break, etc. Third, most also work during the 90 day summer break, often earning an additional 5,000 - 10,000 as construction worker, lawn jockey, waitress, seasonal worker, etc. Fourth, they also have a great beneifts plan and retirement, two things most people don't get if they don't work for the government or other types of government agencies.

Sure the are helping to mold the minds of our future leaders, but it has never been a high paying job. People enter into the profession with the knowledge that it is not a high paying job, but opportunities do exist to further that pay scale by going into administration or higher education.

Just some of my thoughts on the matter.


buck523 8 years, 11 months ago

Personally, I'm tired of the argument posted above. While there are some poor teachers that only put in the minimum, I can tell you that any teacher of quality will put in the extra time above and beyond the 8-3 day. You mention that teachers have a lunch. Yes, they do have a lunch, but many spend their time eating their lunch in their classroom while they spend their lunch working and tutoring students in their classes who are struggling for one reason or another. Yes, they do have a plan each day. But their plan is often spent in meetings (IEP Meetings, team meetings, parent meetings, etc) and when not in meetings, they are planning for the next day, grading papers, meeting with the principal, etc. The majority of the teachers I know do spend a large majority of their evenings grading papers, planning, and contacting parents. In the summers, many teachers are attending trainings to get recertified and to learn the newest teaching strategies to incorporate into their lessons in the fall. Many teachers spend time on curriculum committees to find new ways to present material to kids. There is so much more that happens "behind the curtains" than you have a clue. If you really want to know what a teacher does.....volunteer in a school for a couple of days. I think it would open your eyes!


buck523 8 years, 11 months ago

I fully agree 50cal. I welcome those who are not dedicated to the profession and our kids to leave and hope the door doesn't hit their buttocks on the way out! I agree with altitude adjustment that the pay does not attract quality people like it used to. Who really wants to go into teaching with the level of politics that are involved, parents wanting to sue every teacher they come across, kids who think they are entitled to everything....the list goes on. But, there are teachers who love kids and truly want to teach them and help them to become better people. Hopefully the district administration will do enough screening to weed out the poor teachers when hiring.


Really 8 years, 11 months ago

Another thing most people don't realize is that school personnel are told when they can have a vacation. Teachers can't take a week off to go elk hunting in October or a week in February to ski or snowmachine. The grass is always grener...


Cole White 8 years, 11 months ago

You all have good points. There are alot of dedicated teachers who go above and beyond and spend more than 6 hours a day, but most of my teachers in MC highschool had student aids grade the papers, had the same lesson plans and tests that they have used over and over again for years with no change what so ever, and could teach a class in their sleep (and often did). I do find it interesting that a person has to be taught how to teach. That really doesn't make any sense. I have a masters degree in chemistry, but am not qualified to teach junior high because I don't have a teaching certificate. I have taught in colleges and universities, but I am not qualified to teach highschool. Does that make sense? No - Highschool math, science, history, english, etc. has not changed in 20 years with the exception of some new tools such as computers etc. that are as difficult to learn as programing you coffee maker. I substitute all the time and the feedback from the students is always the same. Teachers regergitate something from a text book for 20 minutes, give an assignment, and then kick back and surf the net, text message, or grade an assignment. Yes 10 - 15% do go the extra mile and they are the teachers singled out for their accomplishments. The vast majority are earning forty bucks an hour and have their summers off. You fooling yourself if you think it is a strenuous job. Thankless? Yes. Tedious? Yes. But difficult? My Great Aunt taught school and all she had was a highschool education herself, 15 year old text books, and a two room school house and everyone of those kids received a better education than I did from MCHS.


50cal 8 years, 11 months ago

Right on, I think they could do away with all the extra crap and teach the four Rs and be better off. America didn't start losing her standing in the educational cumunity until we started branching out in to all the social issues that are being taught now. They need their butts run off at recess and the basics will do fine. The teachers that did inspire me were the ones you see leaving that high school this year for other or further career goals.


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