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Educator Burnout and Retention Rates
October 2021


"What does research say about how educator burnout affects educator retention rates?"


Brasfield, M. W., Lancaster, C., & Xu, Y. J. (2019). Wellness as a mitigating factor for teacher burnout. Journal of Education, 199(3), 166–178. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Teacher stress and burnout have been associated with professional dissatisfaction and elevated rates of attrition. Knowledge has emerged to indicate that wellness may relieve professional stress that can precede burnout and departure from the profession; however, more research is needed to substantiate this relationship. The current study examined the potentially militating function of wellness in lowering burnout. For this study, 107 PreK-12th grade teachers completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory--Educator Survey and the Five-Factor Wellness Inventory. Results indicate significant relationships between reported burnout with wellness indicators and attrition. Implications for teachers, teacher education programs, and educational leadership teams are discussed."

Brunsting, N. C., Sreckovic, M. A., & Lane, K. L. (2014). Special education teacher burnout: A synthesis of research from 1979 to 2013. Education and treatment of children, 681–711. https://eric.ed.gov5 Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Teacher burnout occurs when teachers undergoing stress for long periods of time experience emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment (Maslach, 2003). Outcomes associated with burnout include teacher attrition, teacher health issues, and negative student outcomes. Special educators are at high risk for burnout as their working conditions align with many factors associated with burnout. In this review, we updated the literature on special education teacher working conditions by reviewing studies (N = 23) that (a) included a quantitative measure of burnout and (b) focused on special education teachers as participants. An analysis of the studies reviewed provided a clear base of support for the association between burnout and a range of variables from the individual, classroom, school, and district levels. Bronfenbrenner's (1977) Ecological Model supplied the organizational framework for the range of variables. Teacher experience, student disability, role conflict, role ambiguity, and administrative support were particularly salient factors in special education teacher burnout. Important gaps in the research are discussed, future directions for researchers are outlined, and implications for teachers and other practitioners are provided."

Fisher, M. H. (2011). Factors influencing stress, burnout, and retention of secondary teachers. Current Issues in Education, 14(1), 1–37.

From the Abstract:
"This study examines the stress, burnout, satisfaction, and preventive coping skills of nearly 400 secondary teachers to determine variables contributing to these major factors influencing teachers. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) statistics were conducted that found the burnout levels between new and experienced teachers are significantly different, with novice teachers having higher burnout, but their difference in stress levels was not statistically significant. In three multiple regression tests, stress and burnout were found to be statistically significant predictors of job satisfaction; years of experience, job satisfaction, and burnout were statistically significant predictors of stress; and job satisfaction, preventive coping skills, and stress were statistically significant predictors of burnout."

Harmsen, R., Helms-Lorenz, M., Maulana, R., & van Veen, K. (2018). The relationship between beginning teachers' stress causes, stress responses, teaching behaviour and attrition. Teachers and Teaching, 24(6), 626–643.

From the Abstract:
"In this study, the relationships between beginning teachers' perceived stress causes, stress responses, observed teaching behaviour and attrition is investigated employing structural equation modelling (SEM). A total of 143 BTs were surveyed using the Questionnaire on the Experience and Evaluation of Work-BTs (QEEW-BT). Teaching behaviour was observed using the ICALT observation instrument. Results show that BTs' perceived negative pupil aspects relate positively to the stress responses perceived tension, discontent and negative emotions. Negative emotions, in turn, are negatively associated with observed teaching behaviour. This study also shows that discontent positively relates to attrition. Additionally, this study provides important cues to improve professional support programmes for BTs."

King, D. L., Rucker, K. J., & Duncan, D. W. (2013). Classroom instruction and FFA/SAE responsibilities creating the most stress for female teachers in the Southeast. Journal of Agricultural Education, 54(4), 195–205.

From the Abstract:
"Teacher attrition research in agricultural education has found that teachers are at high risk of leaving the profession early in their careers (Kelsey, 2006; Myers, Dyer, & Washburn, 2005; Heath-Camp & Camp, 1990). In addition, female teachers are more likely to leave the profession than male teachers (Kelsey, 2006; Thompson, 1986). Identified dissatisfiers include lack of administrative support and working long hours (Boone, 2003; Moore & Camp, 1979). Lazarus's Theory of Psychological Stress indicates that once a teacher appraises a stressor they will seek to master, tolerate, or reduce the demands of the stressor (Lazarus, 1991). If mastery is not deemed possible, toleration and/or reduction of stressor demand could result in attrition from the profession. By identifying specific stressors related to classroom instruction and FFA/SAE responsibilities, coping strategies may be developed to aid in reducing stress for female teachers. Results indicated that preparing proficiency applications, planning FFA banquet, preparing CDE teams, paperwork/reports, creating new curriculum, and lack of teaching materials were the FFA/SAE responsibilities and classroom responsibilities creating the highest amount of stress. Time management strategies, especially related to planning spring semester events when FFA banquets are held and applications are due, may be useful for the teachers in this study."

Madigan, D. J., & Kim, L. E. (2021). Towards an understanding of teacher attrition: A meta-analysis of burnout, job satisfaction, and teachers' intentions to quit. Teaching and teacher education, 105:103425. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Teacher attrition continues to be a concern for school leaders and policymakers in many countries. To help further understand why teachers leave the profession and to inform the development of targeted interventions to reduce this phenomenon, in the present study we aimed to provide the first meta-analytic examination of (a) the relationship between burnout and teachers' intentions to quit, (b) the relationship between job satisfaction and teachers' intentions to quit, and (c) whether burnout or job satisfaction is more important in predicting teachers' intentions to quit. Random-effects meta-analyses indicated that the three dimensions of burnout showed significant positive relationships with teachers' intentions to quit (exhaustion [r+ = .41], depersonalization [r+ = 0.32], and reduced accomplishment [r+ = 0.21]). In addition, there was evidence that the strength of these relationships has increased over time. Job satisfaction showed a significant negative relationship with teachers' intentions to quit (r+ = −0.40). Burnout dimensions also showed significant negative relationships with job satisfaction (exhaustion [r+ = −0.42], depersonalization [r+ = −0.38], and reduced accomplishment [r+ = −0.30]). Multiple regression analyses based on these meta-analytic effects indicated that burnout and job satisfaction together explained 27% of the variance in teachers' intentions to quit. Finally, relative importance analyses indicated that burnout symptoms accounted for the majority of this explained variance. These findings suggest that burnout and job satisfaction are highly important in predicting teachers' intentions to quit, but it appears that, although they are related, burnout may confer a greater risk than job satisfaction confers protection, and this risk may be increasing over time."

O'Brennan, L., Pas, E., & Bradshaw, C. (2017). Multilevel examination of burnout among high school staff: Importance of staff and school factors. School Psychology Review, 46(2), 165–176.

From the Abstract:
"Previous studies have linked teacher burnout with job performance, satisfaction, and retention; however, there has been limited exploration of potential individual and school contextual factors that may influence burnout. The current study examined high school staff members' reports of burnout as they relate to staff demographics and perceptions of self-efficacy and connectedness, as well as school-level contextual variables (e.g., suspension rate and urbanicity). Data were collected from 3,225 high school staff (e.g., teachers and paraprofessionals) in 58 high schools (grades 9-12) across Maryland. Multilevel analyses indicated that perceptions of connectedness, safety, and self-efficacy as well as staff demographics were significantly related to experiences of work-related burnout. At the school level, only school-wide suspension rates were significantly related to higher burnout. These findings highlight the importance of staff perceptions of the school context as factors that can potentially promote or diminish professional burnout among high school staff."

Rajendran, N., Watt, H. M., & Richardson, P. W. (2020). Teacher burnout and turnover intent. Australian Educational Researcher, 47(3), 477–500. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Correlates of turnover intent among primary (N = 580) and secondary (N = 675), male (N = 254) and female (N = 999) teachers, were examined through the lens of the job demands-resources (JD-R) model. Multigroup structural equation modelling indicated that job demands (workload, student misbehaviour), and the personal demand of work-family conflict, were positively associated with emotional exhaustion--the core dimension of burnout. All demands indirectly related to turnover intent via emotional exhaustion. Among all teacher groups, no significant differences were found in level of emotional exhaustion or turnover intent, and only mild stress was reported as a result of student misbehaviour. Work-family conflict was the strongest predictor of emotional exhaustion for male and female teachers. Results suggest the JD-R as a promising theory for use in explaining job-related outcomes among Australian teachers, and that personal demands should be examined in addition to job demands within it."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: (burnout OR stress OR morale OR "job satisfaction") AND (teacher OR educator) AND (retention OR turnover OR attrition)

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.