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Expert Shares Insight on the Revolving Door of Teachers

Expert Shares Insight on the Revolving Door of Teachers

Teacher turnover affects students, teachers, administrators in a myriad of ways. Often, the costs involved with replacing teachers who have left place a burden on school districts. Some researchers are looking more closely at the revolving door of educators in America's classrooms. 

"There's a revolving door of teacher turnover that costs school districts upwards of $2.2 billion a year," according to a segment from reporter Owen Phillips posted on NPR.org. Phillips had a discussion with Richard Ingersoll, one researcher who has been studying the issues involved with retaining educators. 

"One of the reasons teachers quit, he says, is that they feel they have no say in decisions that ultimately affect their teaching," Phillips wrote in the article. "In fact, this lack of classroom autonomy is now the biggest source of frustration for math teachers nationally."

This was the first question Phillips asked: "What do we know about why some teachers stay in the profession and why some don't?"

"We actually don't have a lot of research on the decision to stay or not," Ingersoll responded. "But we have a lot of data on the flip side: why teachers move to other schools or leave the profession. For example, beginning teachers are more likely to drop out. Those from top colleges — the most selective colleges and universities — are more likely to drop out. And we know that minority teachers are more likely to drop out than white, non-Hispanic teachers."

But most of the turnover is driven by school conditions. Salary is not the main thing. It's important, but not the main thing. And that's an important finding because the teaching force is so large — it's now America's largest occupation — that raising everyone's salaries is a very expensive proposition.

The second question Phillips asked was: "What are some of the important factors driving the decision to stay or leave?"

"One of the main factors is the issue of voice, and having say, and being able to to have input into the key decisions in the building that affect a teacher's job," Ingersoll said. "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."

I've worked with these data a lot going back last couple of decades. Where nationally, large samples of teachers are asked, 'How much say does the faculty collectively have?' And, 'How much leeway do you have in your classroom over a series of issues?' It turns out both levels are really important for decisions whether to stay or to part. And what's interesting about this finding [is that] this would not cost money to fix. This is an issue of management.

Read the full story and share your thoughts below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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