How Has Teacher Turnover Changed Over Time?

Why is this question important? Teacher turnover is an enormous cost for education systems, both in terms of student performance and dollars. High turnover results in increased numbers of inexperienced teachers, a loss of trained teachers, and a cost in dollars for recruitment, hiring, and training new teachers.

See further discussion below.


Source(s): Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Educational Statistics,

Result(s): The number of teachers "leaving” the profession has increased steadily for public schools (from 5.6% in 1988-89 to 8% in 2008-09), and more dramatically for private schools (from 12.7% in 1988-89 to 15.9% in 2008-09). The percentage of teachers changing schools ("movers”) remained fairly constant for public schools, and has steadily decreased for private schools.

Implication(s): Efforts at improving teacher retention have not been successful overall. This failure is a major obstacle to long-term school improvement.

Author(s): Keigher, A., Cross, F.

Publisher(s): Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Educational Statistics

Study Description: In the mid-1980s, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducted a number of surveys concerning schools and school personnel. In 1985, NCES undertook a critical review of its elementary and secondary school data system, identifying gaps in content and design. As a result of this review, NCES redesigned the SASS survey system to emphasize teacher demand and shortage, teacher and administrator characteristics, school programs, and general conditions in schools. SASS also collects data on many other topics, including principals’ and teachers’ perceptions of school climate and problems in their schools; teacher compensation; district hiring practices and basic characteristics of the student population. In 1999 to 2000, public charter schools were also included in the sample. For the 2003 to 2004 SASS, public charter schools were included in the sample as part of the public school questionnaire.

Definition(s): Stayers: Teachers who were teaching in the same school in the current school year as in the base year.
Movers: Teachers who were still teaching in the current school year but had moved to a different school after the base year.
Leavers: Teachers who left the teaching profession after the base year.

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Citation: Keigher, A. (2010). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2008–09 Teacher Follow-up Survey (NCES 2010-353). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 10/1/2009 from