Investigating Critical & Contemporary Issues in Education/Attrition & Status

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Chapter 8

Jody Carter: Brunswick


“The single most important factor in determining student performance is the quality of his or her teachers” (Alliance 2005). Teacher attrition is another way of describing the turnover rate of teachers in the education profession. This phenomenon can have disastrous effects on students’ ability to learn, cause financial strains on our nation, and lower the standards of our children’s education. Because of attrition, “students lose the value of being taught by an experienced teacher, and schools and districts must recruit and train their replacements” (Alliance 2008). While there are several reasons for this abatement, its impact should bring a call to worry for any nation’s education system. By examining the reasons for attrition and suggesting possible actions to lower the turnover rate, we greatly increase our efforts of providing a better education by quality teachers.

Who is Leaving

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy organization, groups the teachers involved in the attrition rate as “movers, who transfer from one school to another within a district and those who leave the district or the profession entirely called leavers” (2008). Keep in mind that retirees and teachers who have died make up the “leavers” category as well as teachers who have left the profession for other reasons (2008). Since there is a distinction, efforts made towards the solution of attrition are usually directed towards the other group of teachers left in this category. Why are Teachers Leaving

In his research report titled “Is There Really a Teacher Shortage?” Dr. Richard M. Ingersoll presents the following reasons teachers leave: “poor teacher salaries, student discipline problems, and class sizes” (2003). For example, Sylvia A. Allegretto, Sean P. Corcoran, and Lawrence Mishel, authors of “How Do Teachers’ Salaries Compare”, argue that teachers earned $116 less per week in 2002 than people with “comparable skills” (2004). Moreover, as of January 1, 2008, Kathy Cox, Georgia’s State Superintendent, increased class sizes by two children due to the state of our economy (Georgia Department of Education, 2008). Nevertheless, some have concluded that retirement may have the major role in attrition. However, Ingersol argues that “retirement accounts for a relatively small number of total departures…a large proportion indicate they depart for personal reasons, and a large proportion also report they depart either because they are dissatisfied with their jobs or in order to seek better jobs or other career opportunities” (2003).

Slowing Down Attrition

Since attrition in total may be impossible to end in entirety, concentrations in making the trend more sluggish seem to be the gathered approach. For example, some professionals advise schools to offer induction and mentoring programs for new teachers within their first five years (Ingersol 2003). Others maintain that “giving teachers the supports necessary to succeed is critical” (Alliance 2008). In similarity, Richard Mihans, an Assistant Professor of Education at Elon University, Elon, N.C., argues that teachers are the answer in “addressing teacher retention” (2008). In other words, we should allow teachers to participate in teacher attrition research. Furthermore, studies have found that the “time it takes for new teachers to perform at the same level as an experienced teacher—on average, from three to seven years—can be shortened when the new teacher participates” in induction programs involving teacher mentoring (Alliance 2005).

The Costs of Attrition

Regardless of who is leaving the profession, experts agree that teacher attrition could cost our nation $4.9 billion (NCTAF 2006). Although this cost seems outrageous, how can we measure how much the students will lose? In addition, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) assesses that schools in the urban area spend $70,000 a year and non-urban schools spend $33,000 a year on teacher turnovers (2006). With numbers like these, a non-urban school with considerably less financial backing could spend over $330,000 in ten years. Of course, this is assuming that the rate stays the same within the decade.


In summary, the rate at which we lose teachers has increased as well as the demand for them. Research from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the rate of attrition has increased in public schools by 3 percent and decreased in private schools by 2.7 percent (2007). This research is based off of teacher follow up surveys taken from 1988 to 2005. In addition, attrition is approximately “50 percent higher in poor schools than in wealthier ones and teachers new to the profession are far more likely to leave than are their more experienced counterparts” (Alliance 2004). Therefore, actions such as teacher inductions and mentoring programs must be setup to stop this trend before our students begin to suffer. Teacher salaries must correctly match the amount of education required for them and competitively resemble other professions linked in skill. Moreover, teachers and further research are the keys to finding solutions to attrition. It is important to remember that “when teachers are not supported, the loss—to taxpayers, educators, schools, communities, and students—is immense” (Alliance 2008).

References Allegretto, Sylvia A., & Mishel, Lawrence (2004, August 24). How Does Teacher Salary Compare? EPI Book, Retrieved from


Alliance for Excellent Education. (2005-2008). Teacher Attrition: A Costly Loss to the Nation and to the States. Washington, D.C. Attrition.pdf and Cox, K. Department of Education, Georgia Department of Education. (2008). Waiver Request Letter and Information Atlanta, GA: Retrieved from etter%20and%20Information.pdf?p=6CC6799F8C1371F6D75E81A462FB23085752B797FE849F24CE0C64A73399F083&Type=D. Ingersol, R. (2003). Is There Really a Teacher Shortage? Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, (Document R-03-4)), Retrieved from Mihans, R. (2008). Can teachers lead? Teaching: A Developing Profession, (ISSN: 00317217), Retrieved from

National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. (2006). The Cost of Teacher Turnover in Five School Districts: A Pilot Study. Washington, D.C.: Barnes, Gary, Ph.D., Crowe, Edward, Ph.D., and Schaefer, Benjamin. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2004-05 Teacher Follow-up Survey (NCES 2007-307). Washington, DC: Retrieved from

Chapter 8

Casey Blanton: Camden

Education is one of the most demanding professions in America today. Kritsonis, W. and Terry, L., (2008) reported the National Commission on Teaching and America’s future (NCTAF), stating the average attrition rate of new teachers is 14 percent. This enormous statistic could be attributed to several factors such as salary rate, teacher preparation and lack of peer mentoring, and school demographics. The ultimate individual who pays for the mishap is the student as well as, the district’s public image. Entering in the field of education is appealing to some with numerous vacations throughout the school year and the entire summer vacation off; however, these factors are often forgotten once job expectations are explained and teachers are expected to meet the high demands requested by the school district to ensure compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act implemented by the Federal Government.

Throughout the United States, it is voiced that teachers are underpaid. A study conducted by Hanushek, E. and Rivkin, S. (2007) found new teachers left districts seeking an increase in salary. Salaries are often deciphered by the school district in correlation with the bargaining committee within the teacher’s union prior to proposal throughout the district for teacher and board approval. Some districts have a single scale or a collapse salary scale. In district such as these, each teacher enters in based on their previous experience regardless if they experience was within the district or not. In the collapse scale districts, the larger sum amounts are often on the front-end to attract new teachers and the back-end to allow the retiring teachers in the DROP program to increase retirement benefits. Other districts go off of a step scale where teachers enter the district based on experience, education, and if the experience was within the district or not. The step salary approach is used to maintain and encourage current teachers to advance in their education or teaching endorsements. For a new teacher, often the district with the collapse scale is more appealing since the starting rate is much higher than that of a step scale salary district. As a result, the turnover rate increases for the district left for a higher salary.

Teacher preparation and lack of peer mentors often is a factor to teacher attrition. ACORN, (n.d.) found in Chicago the estimated cost for implementing a new teacher program per year is $25,475.60; the estimated turnover cost per year is $77,470.50. Teachers often face discouragement when education students due to increase in frustration from an unsuccessful learning environment. Offering a new teacher program or assigning a teacher mentor to new hires the district is providing resources and investing in the educational future of student, schools, and the district in itself. New hires will gain confidence and gain knowledge to increase their effectiveness within the learning environment.

School demographics contribute to an increase in teacher turnover rates in some districts. Ingersoll, R. and Rossi, R. (1995) reported schools with 50 percent or more of their students on free or reduced lunch had an average turnover rate of eight percent. Students on free or reduced lunch are students who fall within a low socioeconomic status category. Parents of these students are often unable to provide additional supplies for to support the learning environment. As a result, teachers are often left with no other choice but to spend their own salary on supplies to support the curriculum. For many teachers, schools with a low count of students on free or reduced lunch are appealing because of the increase in parental financial support within the learning environment.

The ultimate individuals who suffer from an increase in teacher turnover or attrition rate are student achievement rates. Cook, C. (2007, June 21) quoted Emily Baker, principal of East Side Elementary School saying, “The first thing it is going to effect is student achievement. There is no continuity and no consistency in teaching.” With a school occupying a “revolving door” staff, student achievement decreases due to lack of knowledge for policies and procedures, experience in utilizing the selected curriculum, and ability to develop effective professional learning communities. Schools often are unable to grow and mold into a solid, successful learning environment because of insufficient time. Students continue to receive new instruction versus established instruction.

With a high teacher turnover rate districts often loose as well. According to Krieg, J. (2004), public perception as a result of an increase in teacher turnover is that the district level of performance is decreasing due to a consistent loss of individuals. When a district continues to display a large turnover rate, parents who are able often leave the school district in search of a higher quality education for their student. Districts then loose funding for the students and continue to decrease in available funds to increase teacher continuity. The image displayed is that of incompetence on the district’s part to the public. The perception of the district is from the public viewpoint is decreased.

As we focus on the issue at hand; teacher attrition and turnover rates, the root of the problem is much deeper than the surface displays. This root is truly the student, not the school or district. When individuals enter into the teaching profession it should be for one goal: the student. Not salary and benefits, work expectations, or demographic make up of the student population, but the student and the role teachers play in influencing the future. Unfortunately this is often not the case the education profession is chosen as a career path and the side effects are crucial to members of tomorrow’s society.


ACORN, (n.d.). Turnover Costs Verses Teacher Preparation Costs. Retrieved September 15, 2009 from: php?id=318.

Cooke, C. (2007, June 21). Turnover in Teachers Called “Out of Control” Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved September 15, 2009 From: +Turnover+in+teachers+called+out+of+control.doc&tabid=57.

Hanushek, E. and Rivkin, S. (2007). Pay, Working Conditions, and Teacher Quaility. Journal issue: Excellence in the Classroom 17:1. Retrieved September 12, 2009 From: ?journalid=34&articleid=76&sectionid=442.

Ingersoll, R. and Rossi, R. (1995). Which Types of Schools Have the Highest Teacher Turnover? Issue Briefs: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved September 14, 2009 from:

Krieg, J. (2004). Teacher Quality and Attrition Retrieved September 12, 2009 from: http:/ Attrition%20EER%20Final.pdf.

Kritsonis, W. and Terry, L., (2008). National Issue: Whether the Teacher Turnover Effects Students’ Academic Performance? DOCTORAL FORUM NATIONAL JOURNAL FOR PUBLISHING AND MENTORING DOCTORAL STUDENT RESEARCH 5:1. Retrieved September 13, 2009 from:,%20 Lorretta,%20Whether%20Teacher%20Turnover%20Effects%20Students%20 Academic%20Performance.pdf.