From the Field

Leaving School Early

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Teacher turnover has historically been measured one time a year, but in reality, it happens continuously throughout the school year. Thus, to extend research on teacher turnover, Christopher Redding and Gary T. Henry used data from North Carolina to measure teacher turnover monthly throughout the entire year. The results of their analysis, explained in Leaving School Early: An Examination of Novice Teachers’ Within- and End-of-Year Turnover, note the associations between teacher turnover and the characteristics of early career teachers who leave schools, the schools that are most affected, and the exiting teachers’ effectiveness.

Their research reveals that 6 percent of early career teachers leave during each school year. Those trained in traditional, university-based programs are more likely to move to other schools, while those who come through alternative programs or from another state are more likely to leave teaching altogether, whether they leave during or at the end of the school year. New teachers working with Teach for America have among the lowest turnover rates in the first year, but among the highest by the end of three years.

Turnover is felt more strongly in schools with the highest minority student enrollment, where only 29 percent of teachers remain in the same school after three years, in comparison to 42 percent of the teachers in schools with low minority student enrollment. The report found that end-of-year turnover has little effect on student achievement. But students who lose a teacher during the school year have test scores gains that are, on average, lower than students whose teachers remain in the school the entire year. As a result of these findings, this study raises important concerns about the consequences of turnover with respect to timing and magnitude.