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Turnover in any profession can be expected. In fact, some turnover proves to be very beneficial; ideally keeping effective, productive employees and removing those who are not. In education, teacher attrition has been an issue of concern at both the state and national levels in recent years. "In some countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rate was around three percent." (Smollins, 2011) Based on the most recent data provided by the National Center for Educational Statistics and the Department of Education, the national rate of teacher attrition in the United States after the first five years of teaching was seventeen percent. (US Department of Education, 2015) Previous estimates cited teacher attrition as high as fifty percent within the first five years. (Long, 2015). The first five years within a teacher's career are critical in determining longevity within the field. Thus, it comes as no surprise that those first five years have been the subject of much scrutiny by policymakers and individuals in the field.


In 2015, the Georgia Department of Education conducted a survey to gain insight into why roughly forty-four percent of teachers in the state of Georgia leave the teaching profession within the first five years. (Owens, 2015) The reasons most commonly cited by Georgia teachers were:

  • the number and emphasis of mandated tests
  • teacher evaluation methods
  • the level of teacher participation in decisions related to the profession
  • non-teaching school responsibilities and duties
  • the level of benefits and compensation
  • the quality of support, resources, and professional learning
  • school and district-level leadership
  • the level of preparation when entering the profession

While Georgia's rate of attrition is significantly higher than the national average, the reasons cited by Georgia educators are consistent with responses presented in national research. One of the most intriguing conclusions derived from national data is that pay is not the most significant factor for teachers in determining whether they will stay or leave. Rather, one of the reasons given the most weight in terms of attrition was teacher autonomy. According to Richard Ingersoll, a University of Pennsylvania professor, "One of the main factors is the issue of voice, and having say, and being able to have input into the key decisions in the building that affect a teacher's job. This is something that is a hallmark of professions. It's something that teachers usually have very little of, but it does vary across schools and it's very highly correlated with the decision whether to stay or leave." (Phillips, 2015)


The national rate of teacher attrition over the past two decades reveals specific trends, or patterns in terms of who leaves and why. Results from longitudinal research has been emerging in recent years on the topic of teacher attrition and mobility. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics:
  • Salary level of beginning teachers had some influence on retention.
    • Ninety-seven percent of beginning teachers whose first year salary was $40,000 remained, while eighty-seven percent of beginning teachers remained whose salary was less than $40,000.
  • Ninety-two percent of teachers with a mentor remained in the profession, while eighty-four percent of teachers without a mentor remained.
  • During a teacher's second year, seventy-four percent of beginning teachers who stayed remained in the same school, sixteen percent moved to a different school, and ten percent left education entirely. By year five, the percentage of "leavers" was seventeen.

There are specific issues that accompany teacher attrition as well. In some districts, particularly in secondary mathematics, science, and special education courses, there is a shortage of teachers. As a result, alternative means of getting teachers in the classroom are pursued. Some of these alternative certification measures are more effective than others, however. "In 2004, 43 states, plus the District of Columbia, reported having some type of alternative route for certifying teachers, whereas only 8 states said they had alternative routes in 1983 when the National Center for Education Information began collecting such data." (Zhang & Zeller, 73) Alternative means of certification, while useful in the short-term, have proven to have higher rates of attrition than individuals who pursued a longer accreditation program. Longer programs that combine ample field work, accompanied by instruction in educational theory, created teachers that were more committed to long-term employment in education compared to those who participated in alternative certification methods. (Zhang & Zeller, 76)

Another issue presented by high rates of teacher attrition, is that students are being presented with teachers who have not had the benefit of time and experience to master their skills as an educator. "Recent studies suggest that it takes many educators a decade or even longer to become truly effective in their craft--to efficiently deal with distractions and disruptions, create and implement engaging curriculum, and provide meaningful feedback to students, for example." (Barnwell, 2015) It is true that some individuals who enter the teaching profession are able to hit their stride in the classroom much sooner, but overall, surviving beyond the first five years can have a significant impact on teacher effectiveness and student performance in a classroom. In a report released by the Education Trust, it was revealed that a new teacher is twice as likely to be assigned to a high-poverty school than at a low-poverty school. Additionally, students in poor schools are more likely to have a core subject taught by an educator who does not have a teaching certificate or a degree in the subject they are teaching. (Barnwell, 2015) This means that teachers are leaving their jobs before they have the opportunity to truly become effective at what they do. As a result of attrition, high poverty schools are subjected to a cycle of turnover with very few experienced teachers and a destabilizing environment that does nothing to stop that cycle from perpetuating.

Not only is teacher attrition a problem for student success in high-needs areas, but it's costing districts and states millions of dollars. To some, having a high turnover of new teachers would be less costly than having to increase pay for a teacher as more years of experience are accumulated. Many are surprised to learn that teacher attrition is costing the nation 2.2 billion dollars annually. These costs are associated with recruiting, processing new hires, induction, training, and development. (Barnwell, 2015).

A common misconception regarding teacher attrition is that it is happening at a much higher rate than was the statistics demonstrate. As previously stated, before longitudinal data was published it was believed that close to half of teachers within their first five years left teaching. While the reality is significantly lower, if attrition is not examined and combated, student performance will reach a standstill. As demonstrated in the table below, total turnover has remained relatively flat over the past fifteen years. (Di Carlo, 2015)

The most significant indicator of teacher attrition are the student characteristics. Turnover of teachers will vary by the proportion of schools' students eligible for free and reduced lunches. Additionally, teacher attrition varies by the ethnicity of the teacher. White, non-Hispanic educators have an attrition rate of fifteen percent, African American educators twenty-one percent, and Hispanic teachers twenty percent. (US Department of Education, 2015)


We know that beginning teachers are leaving education at disproportionately high rates. The question then becomes, "What can we do?" Many have been arguing for years that teachers deserve higher pay. I don't think anyone can disagree with that. However, teaching is now the largest profession in the United States, and a pay raise for all teachers is not a feasible solution. More and more research is indicating that better management of schools and providing extra supports for new teachers are the most cost-effective ways to combat teacher burnout and turnover.

One of the most effective means by which schools are combating attrition is via a mentor program. Springfield Public Schools in Missouri received a grant for Supporting Teachers, Examining Practices, Uncovering Potential (STEP UP) in 2004 with a goal of reducing their beginning teacher attrition rate from thirty-five percent to at least ten percent. After implementing the program for three years, they had successfully reduced attrition to nine percent.(Moore, 2016) Teachers in public schools in Chicago adopted a similar program and were able to reduce attrition by twenty percent. (Woodruff, 2013)

Mentoring programs that are well organized and have coaches that are thoroughly trained are essential to a program's success. Some of the key characteristics of a successful mentor program are (Moore, 2016):
  • Coaches who operate in a non-evaluative capacity
  • Consistency of meetings between coach and teacher
  • Relationships of trust and confidentiality
  • Flexible approaches to dealing with struggles
  • Celebrating successes

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Barnwell, P. (2015). The Ongoing Struggle of Teacher Retention. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from
Barnwell, a middle-school teacher, argues that experience is critical within the classroom, therefore it's extremely important that high needs schools have a balanced ratio of experienced and non-experienced teachers on staff. Unfortunately, the trend has been that the newest, least experienced teachers are more common in high needs schools. Barnwell argues that schools must be equitable both for students and teachers. Barnwell suggests that offering "combat pay" for teachers in high needs schools doesn't necessarily make a significant impact, rather, it is school environment, administrative support, and collaborative opportunities that will keep new teachers at schools.

Curtis, C. (2012). Why Do They Choose to Teach and Why Do They Leave? A Study of Middle School and High School Mathematics Teachers. Education 132(4), 779-788.
The trend among mathematics teachers to leave the profession corresponds with larger trends of teacher attrition in all subject areas.

Di Carlo, M. (2015). Update on Teacher Turnover in the U.S. Albert Shanker Institute. Retrieved May 28, 2016, from
Di Carlo analyzes the data on teacher attrition provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. Di Carlo notes that teacher attrition rates have remained relatively flat over the past fifteen years and draws a similar conclusion to that of other sources that cites impoverished schools as having the highest rates of attrition in the nation.

Long, C. (2015). Teacher Turnover is Much Lower than You Probably Think. NEA Today. Retrieved May 26, 2016, from
Teacher attrition after the first five years is significantly lower than previously reported. This article looks at the factors that have contributed to this lower rate as well as the issues that continue to lead to teacher attrition.

Moore, A. (2016). Stepping Up Support for New Teachers. Educational Leadership, 73(8), 60-64.
Moore examines the destabilizing effects of high teacher attrition within the first few years in the profession. Additionally, Moore explores how successful mentoring programs can have a significant impact on retaining quality teachers, particularly in high-needs schools.

Owens, S. (2015). Georgia's Teacher Dropout Crisis: A Look at Why Half of Georgia's Public School teachers are Leaving the Profession. Georgia Department of Education. Retrieved May 24, 2016, from
This source provides the breakdown of responses supplied by Georgia educators to gain insight into why Georgia is experiencing a significantly higher rate of attrition than the national average.

Phillips, O. (Host). (2015, March 30). NPRed. [Radio Broadcast]. Washington, D.C.: National Public Radio. Retrieved from
This interview highlights the high costs rendered by school districts that accompany teacher attrition. The most important reason cited by teachers for leaving schools and the profession is lack of autonomy within their schools and classroom. It is argued that management, not money, can provide the most significant gains with teacher retention.

Smollins, M. (2011). Five Reasons Teacher Turnover is on the Rise. Take Part. Retrieved May 26, 2016, from
With baby-boomer teachers retiring and a reduction in students enrolling in teacher preparation programs, this article explores the retention side of the teacher pipeline. The main factors contributing to teacher attrition are burnout, threat of layoffs, testing pressure, poor working conditions, and low wages.

U.S. Department of Education. (2015). Public School Attrition and Mobility in the First Five Years: Results from the First through Fifth Waves of the 2007-08 Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study. National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved, May 25, 2016, from
This study examines the rates and reasons for teacher attrition within the first five years. Teacher and school characteristics are examined as well.

Woodruff, J. (Host). (2013, July 4). PBS Newshour. [Radio Broadcast]. Chicago, IL: Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved from
This article demonstrates that high rates of teacher turnover are creating classrooms with younger and less experienced teachers. There has been great success with mentoring programs such as New Teacher Center, a nonprofit organization, that has witnessed a 20% increase in retention through their mentoring program. Making new teachers feel appreciated, supported, and valued is key to combat attrition.

Zhang, G., & Zeller, N. (2016) A Longitudinal Investigation of the Relationship between Teacher Preparation and Teacher Retention. Teacher Education Quarterly, 43(2), 73-92.
The main focus of this article is to examine whether the type of teacher preparation program influences the rate of attrition. Factors such as the school climate and administrative support are discussed, as well as the characteristics of teacher preparation programs that produces individuals committed to staying within the field of education.

The rate of attrition for teachers within the first five years of the profession has been an issue of concern both at the state level and nationally in recent years. In 2015, the Georgia Department of Education conducted a survey to gain insight into why roughly forty-four percent of teachers in the state of Georgia leave the teaching profession within the first five [EB1] . The reasons cited by Georgia teachers as to why seemingly record numbers of educators are leaving the profession corresponds with reasons cited in national data. However, it must be noted that Georgia’s rate of attrition is significantly higher than [EB2] . The reasons most commonly cited by Georgia teachers were: the number and emphasis of mandated tests, teacher evaluation methods, the level of teacher participation in decisions related to the profession, non-teaching school responsiebilities and duties, the level of benefits and compensation, the quality of support, resources, and professional learning, school and district-level leadership, and lastly, the level of preparation when entering the profession. (GADOE, 2015)
A common misconception regarding teacher attrition is that it is happening at a much higher rate than what the statistics demonstrate. Some estimates, such as those made by Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania, claimed that upwards of fifty percent of teachers left the profession within the first five years. (Brown, 2015) While such alarming speculations ultimately proved to be an over-assumption, [EB3] .

According to the Schools and Staffing Survey, the most accurate indicators of teacher attrition are student characteristics. Turnover of teachers will vary by the proportion of schools’ students eligible for free and reduced lunches. Additionally, teacher attrition varies by the ethnicity of the teacher. White, non-Hispanic educators have an attrition rate of fifteen percent, African American educators twenty-one percent, and Hispanic teachers twenty percent. It’s important to note [EB4] are serving in schools that are disproportionately impoverished. [EB5] Tackling the issue of retention in high-poverty schools will ultimately have the greatest effect on overall attrition and more importantly, student achievement.
High rates of teacher attrition raises alarms regarding potential teacher shortages. In fact, concerns about attrition and subsequent shortages prompted Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia to focus on teacher recruitment and retention. Senate Bill 364 was also signed by Governor Deal which backed off the use of student test results to evaluate teachers. State and local leadership are responding to this perceived “crisis” even it if does not technically exist. Research suggests that there are localized examples of high attrition and shortages, but in terms of the state and national level, there is no concrete evidence that demonstrates an increase in the problem of attrition. The National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) indicated that enrollment in teacher education programs is a reflection of the state of the economy, rather than feelings towards the teaching profession. For instance, when the economy is on the decline, individuals are more likely to pursue a more lucrative career than education. CALDER’s research also indicated that teacher production is growing despite a decline in enrollment in teacher education programs. [EB6] It is uncertain, however, how sustainable that supply will be.
The National Education Association (NEA) conducted research to determine what factors encourage a teacher to stay at a school and within the profession. Strong mentoring programs provided to be a significant factor in retention. [EB7] Additionally, the NEA noted that districts in which the beginning salary was around $40,000 or above had higher rates of retention than those with lower baseline salaries. Much like other reports, the NEA also concluded that one of the defining characteristics of schools that can predict attrition is whether they are high-poverty or low-poverty institutions. (Long, 2015)

A more recent occurring theme in the discussion on teacher attrition is the cost associated with individuals leaving the profession. In research conducted by the Alliance for Excellent Education, it was estimated that schools nationally lose between one to two billion dollars annually through teachers moving or leaving the [EB8] .
Teachers move, according to "On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers," because of job dissatisfaction, including inadequate administrative support, isolated working conditions, poor student discipline, lower salaries and a lack of collective teacher influence over school decisions." In short," wrote Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, "the data suggest that school staffing problems are rooted in the way schools are organized and the way the teaching occupation is treated and that lasting improvements in the quality and quantity of the teaching workforce will require improvements in the quality of the teaching job." (Schaffhauser, 2014)

[EB1]Citation is needed.


[EB3]How so? How did Ingersoll’s assertion directly result in such “discussion”?

[EB4]All minority teachers? Many?

[EB5]Wow – this is a powerful statement. I think you should “unpack” this statement a bit by taking the time to explain (in 1-3 sentences) what this statement means.

[EB6]I think it is important to note, though, that this statistic refers to education majors overall. Currently, there are more elementary education majors than there are open jobs in that field. In other fields (e.g., secondary STEM and special education), though, there are more jobs than eligible candidates.

[EB7]Citation needed.

[EB8]Citation needed.