As with the other questions addressed in this report, the research reviewed for this question provides a stronger basis for some conclusions than for others. The research provides strong evidence that attrition is greater among secondary school teachers than among elementary school teachers. With regard to the more specific issue of middle school attrition in comparison to high school or elementary school attrition, the literature is inconclusive.
Consistent with common perceptions, the research literature provides moderate evidence that teacher turnover is greater in schools with relatively higher proportions of low-income, minority and academically low-performing students. The literature also provides limited evidence that the qualifications of teachers in these schools tends to be inferior to the qualifications of teachers in other schools.
Finally, the literature provides limited support for the conclusion that teacher turnover is greater at private schools than at public schools, and, somewhat surprisingly in light of the current wave of interest in creating more small schools — turnover also is greater in small schools — both public and private — than in larger schools.
One of the implications of the research literature is clearly that educators and policymakers must focus particular attention on stemming teacher attrition in secondary schools, especially in mathematics and science as noted in discussing Question 2. The literature also confirms the importance of addressing the issue of teacher recruitment and retention in schools with high percentages of low-income and minority students.
Finally, although the reasons are not clear, the fact that attrition in smaller schools is greater than in larger schools and greater in private schools than in public schools should raise a caution among those who advocate for a reduction in school size and among those who advocate for greater school privatization. While either of these might, all things considered, be reasonable policy alternatives, it would be important to attempt to determine with greater confidence what impact moving in either direction would likely have on the supply and persistence of our nation's teachers.
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