Exploring the Higher Rates of Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools

Mickey Muldoon

David Stuit and Thomas Smith
National Center on School Choice, Vanderbilt University
December 2009

At first blush, charter fans will be none too pleased with this study on teacher turnover: It finds that nearly twice as many charter teachers left their jobs in 2003-2004 as did district-school teachers (25 vs. 14 percent) and, of those charter educators who exited, most forsook the profession altogether. Moreover, the odds of a charter teacher leaving the profession vs. staying in the same school are 132 percent greater than that of a traditional teacher. Charter teachers were also slightly less satisfied with their working conditions (mostly because of longer hours and less pay) and turnover at start-up charters was particularly high. Yet none of this is terribly surprising when considering the context. The turnover “gap” can be largely explained, for example, by the different types of teachers working at the two species of school, explain the authors. For example, charter teachers tend to be younger, meaning that their exit from the profession could be caused by typical 20-something career-switching. Still, that doesn’t mean all is well in the charter sector; the study also found that, at charter schools, voluntary “leavers” were more common than involuntary ones (involuntary teachers include those affected by school closures), and that the former often cited poor working conditions as the cause of their departure. Here’s hoping that those working conditions have improved in the five years since these aging data were collected. Read it here.

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