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Study Shows TEP Grads Stay in Teaching Longer

According to a new study conducted by HGSE advanced doctoral student Morgaen Donaldson, Ed.M.’97, Teacher Education Program (TEP) alums stay in the classroom significantly longer than the average American teacher.

“This is enormously gratifying,” says Katherine Merseth, senior lecturer and director of TEP. “This is a small teacher education program with very high-quality graduates, who are staying longer than the norm and making a difference in the lives of kids. TEP is making an enormous impact. Our master’s students are not just coming here and treating teaching as a casual one or two year event. This study exemplifies the enormous impact this Ed School has had on K–12 education.”

Donaldson began the study, examining whether, when, and why TEP graduates leave teaching, in the fall 2006 with a pool of 1,267 alums. She received 645 responses to the survey.

The study showed that 50 percent of TEP graduates leave teaching within eight years compared to national samples which estimate that 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years. These results confirm an earlier Ed School study conducted in 1988.

“Eight years in a career in this day in age is significant no matter what profession we are talking about, but especially in teaching,” Merseth says.

Furthermore, the study revealed that TEP graduates are at the highest risk of leaving teaching during their fifth year compared to other teachers who are most likely to leave in year one or two. Merseth says this shows that TEP graduates are better prepared for the realities of their work.

“The fact that this is true of our graduates tells me that we must be doing a pretty good job getting them ready for the realities of teaching, the enormous time demands, emotional drains, and intellectual challenges of the profession. These results tell me that our graduates aren’t surprised or shocked so they stay longer and leave later,” she says.

Not only are TEP graduates likely to stay in teaching longer, but if and when they do leave, 53.1 percent continue in education-related careers such as K–12 administration, higher education, or educational nonprofits, according to the study. In addition, 15.5 percent of TEP graduates who left education returned to the field at a later date.

“That individuals go into teaching, and then choose to go into an education related, nonteaching role, is something the Ed School should be proud of, as it speaks volumes about the Ed School,” Merseth says. “When [students] come here, they are not segregated in one area but can take policy courses and learn about labor unions. I would like to think the experience as a master’s students opened up their awareness to multiple careers in education.”

Merseth and Donaldson speculate several reasons for the study’s outcomes ranging from the quality of TEP to the committed candidates that choose HGSE in the first place.  Also, many students enter the program in their 30s. “If you are over 30, then you’ve likely tried something else,” Merseth says. “[Our students] are making a conscious commitment to come here — it’s not a fly by night decision.”

Merseth and Donaldson hope to continue the study and delve deeper into the reasons behind TEP graduates success. “This is good news and something the school should be very happy about,” Donaldson says. “I’d like to look further into this to understand more completely what really explains it.”


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