Blog: The Educated Reporter

Turning Attention to Teacher Turnover

Flickr/Saad Faruque

Many teachers — especially those in high-poverty urban and rural schools — say goodbye to the classroom by their fifth year on the job. While views vary on how serious a toll teacher turnover takes on U.S. schools, mitigating its downsides is a widely shared goal. 

Teacher turnover and its costs are the subjects of a noteworthy new Connecticut Mirror story by former EWA President Robert Frahm. In “Education’s Revolving Door,” Frahm explores the trends on teacher attrition, as it affects particular schools and the profession as a whole. “In some of the nation’s most troubled schools,” the article notes, “new teachers are leaving their jobs at alarming rates — disrupting classrooms and sparking a debate on how to keep the best young teachers on the job.”

Frahm’s piece is replete with references to research and data featured in recent EWA seminar sessions and online resources. Among them are reports highlighted during “Rethinking Rookies: How to Cover New Teachers,” a session at EWA’s  67th National Seminar last month in Nashville.

During that session, Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania and Susan Headden of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching explored findings on turnover among beginning teachers. A lack of support through the emotional roller coaster of teachers’ first year were among the pervasive problems cited; for more, see Rethinking Rookies: Why Are More New Teachers Quitting Early?

This year’s National Seminar was hardly the first time EWA has looked at this issue. Elements of the turnover debate were on the agenda at the 2013 and 2012 conferences as well. 

At EWA’s conference in May 2013, Stanford University professor Susanna Loeb discussed her research documenting the impact of high rates of teacher turnover on student achievement. As EWA member Melissa Bailey reported in her recap of the session — Teacher Turnover – Who Stays and Who Leaves — Loeb noted that turnover is complicated; whether it’s good or bad depends in part on whether the teachers who come in are more effective than the ones they replace. 

EWA Public Editor Emily Richmond delved further into that research in an interview with one of Loeb’s research partners, Matthew Ronfeldt of the University of Michigan. Their conversation explored the impact of high rates of teacher turnover, not just on students but also on the “stayers” — teachers who remained in their schools.

And in May 2012, Ingersoll discussed the “greening” of the teaching profession — the growing ranks of younger teachers driven in part by turnover — at EWA’s conference in his backyard at the University of Pennsylvania.  A video of his presentation, The Teaching Force: Transforming Before Our Eyes, is interesting viewing for anyone researching the issue.

Frahm’s new piece is a fine illustration of how to take a national issue and localize it for a state-level audience. EWA members — including those looking for possible data stories to explore at EWA’s upcoming Diving Into Data Workshop — could do worse than to follow his example. 



Have a question, comment or concern for the Educated Reporter? Contact Emily Richmond. Follow her on Twitter @EWAEmily.

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