The Cost of Teacher Turnover in Five School Districts: A Pilot Study
June 20, 2007
Gary Barnes, Edward Crowe, Benjamin Schaefer
National Commission on Teaching and America's Future
This study quantifies the costs of teacher attrition in five districts, and it finds that schools are losing a lot of money every time a teacher leaves them--recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers is expensive. In the small, rural district of Jemez Valley, New Mexico, each "teacher leaver" costs $4,366; in Chicago, each costs $17,872. And in urban districts (this study looked at two: Chicago and Milwaukee), "low school performance and high poverty were correlated with high teacher turnover." NCTAF has also created a "Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator" so that other school districts can determine just how much money they're losing whenever a teacher walks out the door. But is the teacher attrition rate really so unusual in a rapidly-evolving job market, in which employees (especially talented 20-somethings) job-hop every two or three years? Maybe not (see here). Regardless, the report's recommendations for combating teacher attrition won't work. NCTAF recommends, for example, investing in new teacher support and development, and that districts upgrade their data systems to make clearer the costs of turnover. To channel the Clinton folks, can I be quoted yawning? Districts that want to hang on to their good teachers (and attract new ones) could start by bucking the unions, embracing common sense, and instituting some form of merit pay. It might also help if schools didn't pay chemistry instructors the same salary as they do gym teachers. And then there's the possibility that teacher attrition is just a cost of doing business. One can make a pretty persuasive case that school districts could actually use a lot fewer teachers, anyway. You can find the report here.