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UFT report shows exodus of experienced teachers

New York Teacher

New teacher hiring picked up in the 2012–13 school year and during the start of this one as the Department of Education finally started to lift its recession-era hiring freeze. However, departures also increased, especially among experienced educators, adding to outflow of teaching talent that has plagued the city schools in recent years.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew warned that attrition poses a real danger and tied the growing problem to a long stretch without a new contract.

“I don’t believe our school system is going to get better if we continue to lose half the teachers who walk into New York City schools,” he said. “Our members have been working for too long a time without a raise. Thousands more teachers will leave if we don’t get a contract soon.”

The UFT’s annual report on hiring and attrition, published in January, shows 4,700 new teachers were hired between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013. Almost that many teachers — 4,040 — were hired in just the first three months of the 2013–14 school year.

About 1,780 of the 2012–13 hires were special education teachers, 500 were licensed in common branches, and about 400 each were certified in English, math and the sciences, with smaller numbers in other disciplines.

A leaky bucket

The new hiring is necessary because nearly half of teachers leave city schools in their first six years, either to work in other school districts or pursue a different profession. Even with the new hires, the teacher workforce count, at 74,500 as of late November, is about 5,000 below its peak in 2007, while class sizes, according to the DOE’s latest count, remain the highest since 2008.

Teacher hiring has been described by one leading researcher as a “leaky bucket,” where thousands of new hires come in even as thousands of others, most in their teaching prime, quit the job after a few years. This is especially true in New York City.

In the 2012–13 school year, UFT research shows, 5,458 teachers and other pedagogical titles — guidance counselors, psychologists and lab specialists — left the city schools, more than canceling out the teacher hiring that year.

The attrition included about 2,300 retirements and another 2,144 “regular” resignations of educators who were fully certified, appointed and not eligible to retire. The count of regular resignations has increased in each of the past four years. Other departures included smaller numbers of staff who were denied tenure (257), became disabled (111) or did not meet state certification requirements (52).

Experience drain

Drilling down into the regular resignations revealed one unexpected trend: a marked jump in resignations among teachers who usually don’t leave — those in their sixth through 15th years. Most attrition takes place among teachers in their first through fifth years, and that is still the case. But five years ago, new teachers accounted for 84 percent of all resignations; last school year, they accounted for only 55 percent.

Now, teachers in their prime middle years, with six to 15 years’ experience and in-depth teaching knowledge, are leaving at almost three times the rate in 2008. They made up 43 percent of resignations in 2012–13, up from 15 percent in 2008.

A Teaching talent drain
Resignations by experience
Years of experience 2008 As % of Total 2011 As % of Total 2012 As % of Total 2013 As % of Total
0-5 years 2,698 84% 1,278 64% 1,255 57% 1,168 55%
6-15 years 496 15% 665 33% 886 41% 907 43%
16 + years 39 1% 50 3% 45 2% 55 3%
Total Resignations 3,233 100% 1,993 100% 2,156 100% 2,130 100%*
* does not add to 100% due to rounding

Teachers and other pedagogues quit the city school system in large numbers. Recently those in their teaching prime — 5-15 years’ experience — have quit in growing number’.