More Teachers Are Sticking Around, But in Which Schools?
A new study shows that new teachers are more likely to stay in the profession (83 percent) than most previous studies have suggested (as low as 50 percent). That’s encouraging news, but it’s important to remember that staying in the profession doesn’t mean staying in the same school. And schools that have revolving doors of teachers — new ones in and out each year — are disruptive to students regardless of overall churn in the profession.
According to the study, 16 percent of teachers moved schools between their first and second years, and over the next three years, 10 percent of teachers moved from one year to the next. (Previous studies have shown that teachers are more likely to leave high-poverty schools than low-poverty ones.) This teacher churn creates instability that deprives students of consistency in instruction, partly because it often prompts changes to teacher assignments, making it harder for continuing teachers to develop subject and grade expertise. The vacancies created by teacher attrition require significant time and money to fill (money that many high-poverty districts and those serving large percentages of students of color have less of already).
So how can administrators and education officials keep strong teachers with the students who need them most? Create a supportive school culture, foster collaboration so staff can share successes and challenges, ensure multiple routes to advancement so strong teachers can grow professionally, and provide leadership with the right balance of autonomy and accountability. These are just some of the responses we received from teachers who work in schools serving many low-income students and students of color. And research on retention agrees.
Because teaching is tough work, it’s important to celebrate this new evidence showing that more new teachers are staying in the profession. But also because teaching is tough work, it’s important that states and districts create conditions and supports that make strong teachers want to stay at the schools where students need them most.