Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Study: Teacher Turnover Is Higher Than Ever

Over the past decade, an increasing percentage of teachers have either moved to another school or left the profession altogether.

An increasing number of teachers is leaving the workforce each year.

woodleywonderworks (flickr)

An increasing number of teachers is leaving the workforce each year.

A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education shows that roughly half a million U.S. teachers move or leave the profession each year. That’s a turnover rate of about 20 percent compared to 9 percent in 2009.

State-by-state analysis found that 7 percent of Indiana’s teachers left between 2008-09.

That rate of attrition is relatively high compared to some other careers, according to a similar study released by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Teachers had significantly less turnover than secretaries, child care workers or correctional officers. On the other hand, teachers leave their jobs at about the same rate as police officers and considerably more often than nurses, lawyers and engineers.

And it’s costing school districts, large and small. Thousands of dollars walk out the door each time a teacher leaves because schools have to pay for recruiting, the hiring process, and training new teachers.

Attrition costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually. Those teachers that left Indiana? Its estimated their departures cost the state between $20 million and $45 million.

Why do they leave?

The reasons vary. Some are terminated, others simply retire. Some leave for better pay or for family reasons. Just over 34 percent say they left to pursue another job. The most common reason: dissatisfaction with working conditions. Close to half of former teachers surveyed by CPRE give this as their reason for leaving.

“The primary driver of the exodus of early-career teachers is a lack of administrative and professional support,” said Susan Headden of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in a recent report. “Quite simply, teachers don’t think the people they work for care about them or their efforts to improve.”

Longstanding concerns remain about students’ access to effective teaching as states gear up to implement rigorous college and career ready standards. Indiana is one of those states, preparing to introduce a new set of its own standards this fall, and a coordinating assessment next school year.

“If the dominant teacher workforce policies and practices remain unchanged, then the aspirations of rigorous state standards will simply continue a legacy of unfulfilled reforms,” the Alliance report states.

Experts seem to agree that better support, feedback and training can help curb the attrition problem, especially among those just entering the teaching workforce.

Richard Ingersoll, professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, says methods of recruitment and retention are equally important in keeping the teaching force afloat. He’s studied a wide variety of supports provided to teachers – everything from face-time with administration, to mentors, seminars for incoming hires, and structured time for collaboration between colleagues.

He says the majority of studies show positive effects for these types of programs – but it depends what type, and how much support you get.

“You sort of get what you pay for,” Ingersoll says. “If you provide a very thin program, you don’t get that much improvement. If you provide a more well thought-out comprehensive program, the data show that you get all kinds of improvements.”

And as the transition to Indiana’s new standards and assessment takes place, Ingersoll says guidance can help lessen the stress on teachers and keep them in our schools.

“If you have the bar and you ask the teachers and the schools to meet it, and then give them the tools to do the job, you will not drive them out,” Ingersoll says. “If you give teachers the tools to meet the standards, then the retention is much better.”

Ingersoll says giving teachers discretion over their own classrooms will also be key in a successful rollout.



  • Brad

    Governor Pence needs to give this some thought as he continues to undermine and replace the elected official that is supposed to represent the education profession at the state level – an individual that overwhelmingly won the approval (by votes) of Indiana’s educators and citizens.

  • mothership49

    The legislature and the governor are happy to poke and prod the public school system until it is completely and totally broken. They want it to fail. Their experimental standards and expectations for public school students are based on crazy think tank researchers who are more than happy to design a path to destroy public education entirely. Meanwhile, the children in our public school system have had their education completely interrupted by this mandated experiment.

  • Bob Eckert

    The first thing that RepubliThugs do after they take over all of state government is to undermine the public school system and if possible, higher education. Then they put religious schools in place as “charter schools” and support them even if they under-perform. The end product that is desired is adults that view the entire world through the lens of a radical Christian theocracy, ready to go to war with other nations that do not agree with their radical agenda and belief system. How is this not terrorism?

    • Sean W.

      Bob, while I agree that the Republican party like to undermine public school systems and classify some religious-based schools as “charter” schools, I am not sure where you think religious schools are teaching students to go to war with other nations. I have yet to work at or hear of a religious-based school that teaches students in their classes about such ideology.

  • PuzzlesBro

    I love how this article is about retaining rates for teacher, and the comments immediately jumps straight to politics or the Governor/Superintendent. :) How about some comments about the working conditions for teachers instead of straying away from the topic?

  • John

    i quit teaching. fuck the job.

    • Courtney

      Fuck ???!! I am a bit confused. Are we talking about the classroom here, or is it the whore house ??

  • Dan

    I’d settle for airconditioning over the weeks of very hot days. You know, like in a normal job.

  • acn0211

    When you can recruit new graduates (with a 4-week teaching-workshop), every year, paying $35,000, why do we need experienced, education-pedagogy-trained-qualified, full-time teachers.
    And, asking for 100% graduation is just an eyewash, to hoodwink parents.
    A $35,000 teacher makes better business sense than professional teachers who need to be paid $50,000.
    Parents must start asking, how much administrators, headquarter-employees, superintendents are paid? Imagine HQ-employees, working a 9 to 5 job, paid 3 times as much as teachers, who work from 8 to 6, and even at home. And, teachers are blamed for all the ills of education.
    Who cares for students and their learning? And, parents are constantly told that it’s all the fault of the teachers…. THE TEACHER IS THE VILLAIN ALWAYS !!!
    And, where does all the money spent on the education budget go?…. Tests, textbooks, software, computers, buildings, teacher-evaluation systems. They make huge profits…. YES !!!
    And, nothing for the teacher. Imagine for over 5 years, teachers never got a cost-of-living-raise…. All the time, crushing the teacher with evaluations, observations, and blame, telling them they’re no good…. And, expecting a 100% graduation. Foolish !!!

  • holly

    The problem with education is the high turnover rate due to unrealistic expectations. Parents and administrators expect all students no matter how unmotivated or immature to achieve the same as top students. It is unrealistic. When a child does not do well or misbehaves, the parent complains to the administrator and the administrator automatically believes them and bullies the teacher to avoid telling the parent the child needs to improve his or her effort or behavior and/or the parent contacting the superintendent or school committee. It is easier to make it look like an administrator is doing something to serve the community by firing a teacher a few parents are unhappy their child is getting an average grade from than keeping high expectations of learning where all students are challenged and the children are expected to put effort into learning. If all of the students are challenged, there would not be a high percentage of As as many schools have these days and parents would be forced to be aware at an early stage whether their child is a strong enough student to succeed long term or whether they need to work with them to improve their study skills so they could do better later in their education when they want to get into selective schools and programs. While so many schools of today have high percentages of students on honor rolls, they all can not accepted into top colleges or medical school and parents will have to face this sooner or later. So while good teachers are being non-renewed because they cared enough to make students learn how to study and work hard while not being able to avoid making weaker, less motivated students’ parents unhappy that their child got a C, the teachers who get the students to learn less and become popular for giving out high numbers of As are the ones staying in the profession. They are usually the ones with weaker academic backgrounds since most intelligent, successful learners understand the importance of effort, studying and being challenged.
    There’s also the fact that many schools are using student feedback as part of the evaluation of teachers, which is unfair since it should not be a middle or high school popularity contest. Most of us who can remember back to being students of that age that the most popular people were not usually the nicest or most caring. This explains why there are so many cases of teachers getting in inappropriate relationships with students. It is a reflection of the type of people who are “popular” with those age groups. If they wanted teachers to be viewed as an authoritative adult to guide them into doing what is right like a good parent would do, they would understand that what is right for the child is not always what the child wants.
    High turnover rates mean that more novice teachers are teaching our children. It takes years for a teacher to really know the material that they are teaching well. While colleges teach a high amount of advanced knowledge, the basics sometimes get rusty in most subjects except maybe Math and English. Experienced teachers are simply more familiar with the knowledge taught and not giving the teachers the years to really perfect their skills and use what they learned to expand, students of today are being denied experienced, committed teachers who would provide stability in schools.
    Administrators should be working hard to get teachers to teach the way they want them to teach, which varies significantly person to person, instead of frequently non-renewing a hard working person for trivial reasons that are not the teachers’ fault. It costs taxpayers, not the administrators, to replace teachers for trivial reasons and the effect is that there is a revolving door of teachers in the same positions. Maybe if schools had to work with teachers instead of easily being able to fire them without any reason (even allowing illegal medical reasons to be the reason for firing without any negative legal action allowed because it’s a teacher) or if an administrator had to have the money to replace the person taken out of their paycheck like the business world does, they would retain teachers.
    I certainly would warn any person no matter what they are like from being educated to be a teacher. The expectations are unrealistic and sooner or later you’ll have problems whether you’re not “in well enough” with the students or you get along too well and it seems inappropriate, you’re too “rigid” or the students are out of control, or you’re too challenging or too easy. You’ll have bosses who have no experience doing the job you were trained to do, yet think they know how it should be done because they paid for some easy graduate program taught by professors who never taught in a public school themselves. Save yourself a lot of money, precious years dedicated to study, and stress and choose a different profession where you will have respect for your training, experience and achievements. At least most are able to keep their job year to year in most other professions.

    • Ric Curtis

      Sounds like you spent some time teaching, and were paying attention. Good “article” you wrote here.

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