Parallel Patterns: Teacher Attrition in Charter vs. District Schools

Betheny Gross and Michael DeArmond, Parallel Patterns: Teacher Attrition in Charter vs. District Schools (Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education, September 2010).

Do charter schools really have much higher levels of teacher burnout and turnover than traditional schools? Through two different methodologies, CRPE’s latest study tackles this question of teacher attrition. Using ten years of data from Wisconsin, the paper finds that attrition levels in charter and district schools are not all that different: When researchers controlled for teacher characteristics (such as academic degrees and ethnicity) and school characteristics (such as concentration of minority students and percent of students passing assessments), they found that charter teachers are only 6 percent more likely to leave their schools and 14 percent more likely to exit the system versus their counterparts in district schools, neither of which is statistically significant. Analysts also conclude that in urban settings, charters fare better at retaining teachers: Educators working in urban charter schools are 31 percent less likely to switch schools and 24 percent less likely to exit the system than their counterparts in traditional urban public schools. As for why teachers exit either sector, the researchers turned to a series of national surveys administered to departing school teachers, and rounded up the usual suspects: concerns about job security, workplace conditions, and job responsibilities.

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