Leave the Profession
An analysis of ECAPS
Published: July 2020
Andrea K. Rorrer, PhD
Yongmei Ni, PhD
Amy Auletto, PhD
Britnee Johnston, MPP
Matthew Pecsok, Data Scientist
Brody Moore, Statistician
Katya Wagstaff, Research Communications Associate
The Educator Career and Pathway Survey (ECAPS) for Teachers was developed by Andrea K. Rorrer, PhD and Yongmei Ni, PhD with the Utah Education Policy Center (UEPC) at the University of Utah in 2016.1 Working in partnership with the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), the UEPC has been able to advance our understanding of the factors that contribute to educators’ career-related decisions. Specifically, the ECAPS for Teachers explores teachers’ decisions to enter the teaching profession; the influence of various factors on their decision to remain in, move within, or leave education; satisfaction with working conditions; and career intentions. Administered for the second time in Fall 2019, the ECAPS for Teachers offers a unique perspective on these issues as it draws directly from the voices and experiences of Utah’s teaching core. Future administrations of ECAPS will include a focus on the district and school leadership, including the leadership pipeline, leadership roles and responsibilities, satisfaction, and career intentions.
Utah teachers’ responses analyzed in 2020
In Fall 2019, the ECAPS for Teachers was administered to all licensed educators in Utah using their Comprehensive Administration of Credentials for Teachers in Utah Schools (CACTUS) email address. There were 10,329 responses. Of the responses, 8,816 teachers and teacher specialists, representing 26.7% of teachers in CACTUS were able to be used for the analysis.”
Hover Over Different Colored Circles to View Different Groups
84% of the Respondents were Stayers
Respondents were asked to indicate which of the following categories best represented their experience in teaching:
- Stayers: taught in a public school setting in Utah in 2018-19 and continued teaching in the same school in 2019-20
- Movers: taught in a public school setting in Utah in 2018-19 and began teaching in a different school in 2019-20
- Leavers: taught in a public school setting in Utah 2018-2019 and did not return to teaching in Utah in 2019-20
- New Teachers: taught in a public school setting in Utah in 2019-20 for the first time
- Returning Teachers: stopped teaching at some point in their careers but returned to teaching in Utah in 2019-20
Keep scrolling to view the data narrative or click on the icon to go to the full report.
Why do teachers enter the profession?
Becoming a Teacher
The Fall 2019 ECAPS for Teachers survey results indicate that educators remain primarily driven by intrinsic motivations to enter the teaching profession. The five most influential reasons that teachers enter the profession are: a desire to make a difference, to contribute to society, experience with children, a sense of personal achievement, and subject matter interest. Although the proportions vary slightly by teaching group, these reasons were consistent across respondent categories. The values in this figure represent the percentage of individuals who indicated that a given reason was either “very” or “extremely” influential in their decision to become a teacher.
Why do teachers remain?
Remaining as a Teacher
Stayers, movers, and returning teachers were asked about their motivations to remain in the teaching profession. Fall 2019 ECAPS for Teachers respondents identified intrinsic motivations for continuing to teach. The five most influential reasons that teachers remain in the profession are: a desire to make a difference, experience with children, to contribute to society, a commitment to children, and a sense of purpose. These reasons are found among stayers and movers, while results for returning teachers are slightly different. Returning teachers note that the convenience of the annual teaching schedule is a top reason they return to teaching. The values in this figure represent the percentage of individuals who indicated that a given reason was either “very” or “extremely” influential in their decision to remain in teaching.
How satisfied are teachers?
Satisfaction with Working Conditions
All teachers were asked to rate their satisfaction with various aspects of their work on a five-point scale, which we have organized into six categories: classroom, student performance, school, economic, administrative, and professional factors. Overall, we find that teachers who have spent less time in the profession (new teachers) or have recently spent time away from the profession (returning teachers) tend to be more satisfied with multiple areas of the teaching profession, including administrator, student performance, and school factors. Self-initiated movers, those who opted to change positions, tended to be the least satisfied.
First, select a category, then select a factor
What are teachers’ career plans?
The ECAPS for Teachers asked self-initiated movers—those who chose to transfer to a new teaching or teaching specialist position—to identify factors that influenced their decision to transfer schools. Stress/burnout was the most commonly identified reason, with over half of respondents citing this as either “very” or “extremely” influential. Other common reasons for changing schools included: location, a change in grade level, the opening of a new school, or pursuing a position within a new program.
teachers applied for another position in education in the last 12 months
Generally, however, respondents did not indicate that they were seeking to change positions. Only 15% of stayers, new teachers, and returning teachers reported that they had applied for a different job in education within the past year.
Plans to Remain in the Profession
Stayers, new teachers, and returning teachers were asked how long they plan to remain in the teaching profession. Most respondents stated that they will remain as long as they are able or until they are eligible for retirement. New and returning teachers, however, were much more likely to state that they would stay as long as they were able, while stayers were somewhat split between staying as long as able and until eligible for retirement. Returning teachers were more likely to state that they were undecided than new teachers and stayers. Select an option below using the dropdown menu to view the breakdown of responses across groups.
With attention to educator recruitment, retention, and success, the ECAPS offers us an opportunity to use data to inform preparation, policy and practice. ECAPS, for instance, affirms prior research on what attracts individuals into the profession. Utah educators also express altruistic and intrinsic factors as their most motivating factors for entering the field.1
Findings from this study indicate that teachers’ decisions to remain in the profession are influenced by their relationships with colleagues, autonomy, and job assignments, which are also among the most highly satisfying aspects of their work. These same teachers indicate that financial compensation, accountability, and reform were less influential in their decisions whether to remain or leave.
Despite the reported high levels of satisfaction that teachers experience in many facets of their work, some teachers expressed concern with the ways in which larger policies related to accountability and reform impact their day-to-day work. Future research and administrations of ECAPS will need to consider whether working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted educator satisfaction and decisions to remain in teaching.
Research shows that teachers with higher levels of satisfaction are more likely to remain in teaching as a lifelong career,2 which in turn, ultimately benefits students.3 Initiatives to improve teacher satisfaction, especially working conditions, may be a promising route to improving student outcomes.
Click on the icon to read the full report.
We want to extend our gratitude to the following persons for their support, insights and reviews as we conducted the ECAPS study and prepared the ECAPS report.
Jennifer Throndsen, USBE, Director of Teaching and Learning
Leah Voorhies, PhD., USBE, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support
Kristin Campbell, USBE, Research Analyst
Kami Dupree, USBE, Educator Effectiveness Specialist
Katie Hill, USBE, Educator Effectiveness Specialist
1 Ni, Y. & Rorrer, A.K. (2018). Why Do Teachers Choose Teaching and Remain Teaching: Initial Results from the Educator Career and Pathway Survey (ECAPS) for Teachers. Utah Education Policy Center: Salt Lake City, UT.
2 Guarino, C.M., Santibañez, L., & Daley, G.A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of the recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173-208.
3 Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). Teacher turnover and teacher shortages: An organizational analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38, 499-534.
4 Hanushek, E.A., Rivkin, S.G., & Schman, J.C. (2016). Dynamic effects of teacher turnover on the quality of instruction. Economics of Education Review, 55, 132-148.