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Teacher Workforce

November 2017


What research is available on factors associated with teacher retention, particularly teacher retention in high-poverty or high-minority schools?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on factors associated with teacher retention. In particular, we focused on identifying resources related to teacher retention in high-poverty or high-minority schools. For details on the databases and sources, keywords and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of references and resources provided in this response, but offer this list to you for your information only.

Research References

Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Ing, M., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). The influence of school administrators on teacher retention decisions. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2), 303–333. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This article explores the relationship between school contextual factors and teacher retention decisions in New York City. The methodological approach separates the effects of teacher characteristics from school characteristics by modeling the relationship between the assessments of school contextual factors by one set of teachers and the turnover decisions by other teachers in the same school. We find that teachers’ perceptions of the school administration has by far the greatest influence on teacher retention decisions. This effect of administration is consistent for first-year teachers and the full sample of teachers and is confirmed by a survey of teachers who have recently left teaching.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). Explaining the short careers of high-achieving teachers in schools with low-performing students. American Economic Review, 95(2), 166–171. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “In this paper we examine New York City elementary school teachers’ decisions to stay in the same school, transfer to another school in the district, transfer to another district, or leave teaching in New York state during the first five years of their careers. As described below, we are not the first paper to look at teacher turnover. This paper differs from others before it by focusing on the contribution of teacher quits and transfers to the teacher quality gap. It does this by modeling observed heterogeneity in the turnover rates between high and low scoring teachers in high and low scoring schools, accounting for the effects of the distance from teachers home to the schools they teach in on teachers’ career decisions. In particular, we employ a discrete-time competing-risk model to examine decisions of New York City elementary school teachers to stay in the same school, transfer to another school within the district, transfer to another district, or to leave teaching in New York State during the first five years of their careers. In contrast to past studies employing similar hazard models, the mixed-logit specification allows us to explore the importance unobserved heterogeneity.

We find that student achievement levels are correlated with teacher career outcomes, even after accounting for student and teacher race. This effect is differentially strong for higher performing teachers, though not quite as strong as the correlation between career outcomes and student racial composition for white teachers, on average. By modeling unobserved heterogeneity in the effects of student performance on teacher career decisions we find that many teachers are unaffected by these student characteristics; however, a group of teachers is strongly affected and are more likely to move away from low-performing schools. In addition, we find that teachers who lived farther from the school in which they teach prior to taking their job are much less likely to remain in their school. The distance effect is mildly more important for low-performing schools because teachers tend to travel farther to teach in these schools. The distance effect is important for explaining turnover in New York City, though it only explains a little of the differential quit rate of high and low scoring teachers in high and low performing schools.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher turnover: Why it matters and what we can do about it. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Without changes in current policies, U.S. teacher shortages are projected to grow in the coming years. Teacher turnover is an important source of these shortages. About 8% of teachers leave the profession each year, two-thirds of them for reasons other than retirement. Another 8% shift to different schools each year. In addition to aggravating teacher shortages, high turnover rates lower student achievement and are costly for schools. This brief examines turnover trends and causes. It concludes that policies to stem teacher turnover should target compensation, teacher preparation and support, and teaching conditions.”

Elfers, A. M., Plecki, M. L., & Knapp, M. S. (2006). Teacher mobility: Looking more closely at “the movers” within a state system. Peabody Journal of Education, 81(3), 94–127. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This article summarizes the results of a 2-part study using both state databases and teacher surveys to examine teacher retention and mobility in Washington’s teacher workforce. The first part of the research examined individual teacher records during a 5-year period. Statewide analyses were conducted, and 20 districts were selected for in-depth examination. Data were examined in relation to student demographics, measures of student learning, and poverty level of the school, with special attention given to novice teachers and teachers of color. The second part of the study surveyed a representative sample of teachers regarding their views on factors that influence their decisions to stay or leave their school or school district. Findings suggest that focusing on the nature of teacher mobility within a district is a useful way to examine a number of equity concerns.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Glazerman, S., Protik, A., Teh, B.-R., Bruch, J., & Max, J. (2013). Transfer incentives for high-performing teachers: Final results from a multisite randomized experiment. Executive summary. NCEE 2014-4004. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “One way to improve struggling schools’ access to effective teachers is to use selective transfer incentives. Such incentives offer bonuses for the highest-performing teachers to move into schools serving the most disadvantaged students. In this report, we provide evidence from a randomized experiment that tested whether such a policy intervention can improve student test scores and other outcomes in low-achieving schools. The intervention, known to participants as the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), was implemented in 10 school districts in seven states. The highest-performing teachers in each district—those who ranked in roughly the top 20 percent within their subject and grade span in terms of raising student achievement year after year (an approach known as value added)—were identified. These teachers were offered $20,000, paid in installments over a two-year period, if they transferred into and remained in designated schools that had low average test scores. The main findings from the study include: (1) The transfer incentive successfully attracted high value-added teachers to fill targeted vacancies; (2) The transfer incentive had a positive impact on test scores (math and reading) in targeted elementary classrooms; and (3) The transfer incentive had a positive impact on teacher-retention rates during the payout period; retention of the high-performing teachers who transferred was similar to their counterparts in the fall immediately after the last payout.”

Hammer, P. C., Hughes, G., McClure, C., Reeves, C., & Salgado, D. (2005). Rural teacher recruitment and retention practices: A review of the research literature, national survey of rural superintendents, and case studies of programs in Virginia. Nashville, TN: Appalachia Educational Laboratory at Edvantia. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In 2004, Edvantia, Inc. (formerly AEL) and the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) initiated an effort to identify successful strategies for recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers in rural areas. They reviewed non-rural-specific and rural-specific research and practice literature, surveyed rural superintendents across the nation, and conducted case studies of three Virginia programs that support teacher recruitment and retention. Generally, the literature shows that the problem of teacher shortages varies across geography, demography, and subject area. The schools that find it hardest to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers are those in highly urban and rural areas (especially those serving minority or low-income students) and schools in the Southeast, Southwest, and the West. Especially needed are teachers in special education, bilingual education, math, and science. Edvantia/NASBE survey results and case studies amplify these findings and offer insights into challenges and promising practices in rural teacher recruitment and retention.”

Ingersoll, R. M. (2004). Why do high-poverty schools have difficulty staffing their classrooms with qualified teachers? Washington, DC: Center for American Progress and the Institute for America’s Future. Retrieved from

From the executive summary: “The failure to ensure that the nation’s classrooms, especially those in disadvantaged schools, are all staffed with qualified teachers is one of the most important problems in contemporary American education. The conventional wisdom holds that these problems are primarily due to shortages of teachers, which, in turn, are primarily due to recent increases in teacher retirement and student enrollment. Unable to compete for the available supply of adequately trained teachers, poor school districts, especially those in urban areas, the critics hold, end up with large numbers of underqualified teachers. The latter is, in turn, held to be a primary factor in the unequal educational and occupational outcomes of children from poor communities. Understandably, the prevailing policy response to these school staffing problems has been to attempt to increase the supply of teachers. In recent years, a wide range of initiatives has been implemented to recruit new candidates into teaching, especially to disadvantaged settings. This report investigates the possibility that other factors—those tied to the characteristics and conditions of schools—are behind the teacher shortage crisis. Unlike earlier research, this analysis focuses on those kinds of schools deemed most disadvantaged and the most needy—those serving rural and urban, low-income communities. The data utilized in this investigation are from the Schools and Staffing Survey and its supplement, the Teacher Follow-up Survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the data collection arm of the U.S. Department of Education. This is the largest and most comprehensive source of data on teachers available. The data indicate that school staffing problems are not primarily due to teacher shortages, in the sense of an insufficient supply of qualified teachers. Rather, the data indicate that school staffing problems are primarily due to a ‘revolving door’—where large numbers of qualified teachers depart from their jobs long before retirement. The data show that high-poverty public schools, especially those in urban communities, lose, on average, over one fifth of their faculty each year. In such cases, ostensibly, an entire staff could change within a school in only a short number of years. The data show that much of the turnover is accounted for by teacher job dissatisfaction and teachers pursuing other jobs. The analyses indicate that one reason for high rates of turnover in these schools is, not surprisingly, teacher compensation. Teachers in these schools are often paid less than in other kinds of schools and depart accordingly. But, the data also indicate that low salaries are not the only reason for the high level of turnover in disadvantaged schools. Significant numbers of those who depart from their jobs in these schools report that they are hampered by inadequate support from the school administration, too many intrusions on classroom teaching time, student discipline problems and limited faculty input into school decision-making. From a policy perspective, the data suggest that schools are not simply victims of large-scale, inexorable demographic trends. In plain terms, the data suggest that recruiting more teachers will not solve staffing inadequacies if large numbers of such teachers then leave the profession. This report concludes that if schools want to ensure that all students are taught by qualified teachers, as the No Child Left Behind Act now mandates, then they must be concerned about low teacher retention rates.”

Ingersoll, R., & Perda, D. (2009). The mathematics and science teacher shortage: Fact and myth. (Report No. RR-62). Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy and Research in Education. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Contemporary educational thought holds that one of the pivotal causes of inadequate school performance is the inability of schools to adequately staff classrooms with qualified teachers, especially in fields such as mathematics and science. Shortages of teachers, it is commonly believed, are at the root of these staffing problems, and these shortfalls are, in turn, primarily due to recent increases in teacher retirements and student enrollments.

The objective of this study is to empirically reexamine the issue of mathematics and science teacher shortages and to evaluate the extent to which there is a supply-side deficit—a shortage—of new teachers in these particular fields. The data utilized in this investigation are from three sources—the Schools and Staffing Survey and its supplement, the Teacher Follow-Up Survey; the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System; and the Baccalaureate and Beyond Survey, all conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The data show that there are indeed widespread school staffing problems—that is, many schools experience difficulties filling their classrooms with qualified candidates, especially in the fields of math and science. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, the data also show that these school staffing problems are not solely, or even primarily, due to shortages in the sense that too few new mathematics and science teachers are produced each year. The data document that the new supply of mathematics and science teachers is more than sufficient to cover the losses of teachers due to retirement. For instance, in 2000 there were over two and half teachers in the new supply of math teachers for every one math teacher who retired that year. However, when preretirement teacher turnover is factored in, there is a much tighter balance between the new supply of mathematics and science teachers and losses. The data also shows that turnover varies greatly between different types of schools and these differences are tied to the characteristics and conditions of those schools. While it is true that teacher retirements are increasing, the overall volume of turnover accounted for by retirement is relatively minor when compared with that resulting from other causes, such as teacher job dissatisfaction and teachers seeking to pursue better jobs or other careers.”

Ingersoll, R., Merrill, L., & May, H. (2016). Do accountability policies push teachers out? Educational Leadership, 73(8), 44–49. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The impact of accountability on U.S. schools, for good or ill, is a subject of debate and research. The authors recently studied an aspect of accountability that had previously received little attention. They asked, do accountability reforms affect public schools’ ability to retain their teachers? By analyzing data from the Schools and Staffing Survey and the Teacher Followup Survey, they found strong (but unsurprising) evidence that accountability made teacher retention more difficult in low-performing schools; schools whose students scored low on high-stakes assessments had higher teacher turnover than those that scored higher; and schools that received sanctions because of their low performance had even higher turnover. The most helpful finding of the analysis was that even in schools subject to sanctions, higher teacher turnover was not inevitable. Schools that had better working conditions—and especially those that gave teachers greater classroom autonomy—were able to mitigate the negative effects of accountability sanctions. The authors conclude that holding teachers accountable for results must be paired with giving them control over the instruction that produces these results.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Johnson, S. M., Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2012). How context matters in high-need schools: The effect of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 114(10), 1–39. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Background/Context: Educational policy makers have begun to recognize the challenges posed by teacher turnover. Schools and students pay a price when new teachers leave the profession after only 2 or 3 years, just when they have acquired valuable teaching experience. Persistent turnover also disrupts efforts to build a strong organizational culture and to sustain coordinated instructional programs throughout the school. Retaining effective teachers is a particular challenge for schools that serve high proportions of low-income and minority students. Although some interpret these turnover patterns as evidence of teachers’ discontent with their students, recent large-scale quantitative studies provide evidence that teachers choose to leave schools with poor work environments and that these conditions are most common in schools that minority and low-income students typically attend. Thus, mounting evidence suggests that the seeming relationship between student demographics and teacher turnover is driven not by teachers’ responses to their students, but by the conditions in which they must teach and their students are obliged to learn. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: We build on this body of work by further examining how working conditions predict both teachers’ job satisfaction and their career plans. We use a broad conception of the context of teachers' work, paying attention not only to narrowly defined working conditions but also to the interpersonal and organizational contexts in which teachers work. We also extend Ladd’s analysis describing the relationship between the work context and student achievement. Advancing our understanding of this relationship is particularly important, given the increasing emphasis legislators place on evidence of student achievement when evaluating education policy. Specifically, we ask three research questions: (1) Do the conditions of work in Massachusetts public schools affect teachers’ satisfaction with their jobs and their career plans? (2) Are schools with better conditions of work more successful in raising student performance than schools with less supportive working conditions? (3) If the conditions of work are important, what elements of the work environment matter the most? Research Design: In this article, we combine a statewide survey of school working conditions (MassTeLLS) with demographic and student achievement data from Massachusetts. We examine three primary outcomes: teacher satisfaction, teacher career intentions, and student achievement growth. From different items on the MassTeLLS, we construct a set of nine key elements that reflect the broad-based conditions in which teachers work. We fit standard regression models that describe the relationship between each outcome and both overall conditions of work and each element separately, modeling this relationship according to the properties of our outcome variables. Findings/Results: We found that measures of the school environment explain away much of the apparent relationship between teacher satisfaction and student demographic characteristics. The conditions in which teachers work matter a great deal to them and, ultimately, to their students. Teachers are more satisfied and plan to stay longer in schools that have a positive work context, independent of the school’s student demographic characteristics. Furthermore, although a wide range of working conditions matter to teachers, the specific elements of the work environment that matter the most to teachers are not narrowly conceived working conditions such as clean and well-maintained facilities or access to modern instructional technology. Instead, it is the social conditions—the school’s culture, the principal’s leadership, and relationships among colleagues—that predominate in predicting teachers’ job satisfaction and career plans. More important, providing a supportive context in which teachers can work appears to contribute to improved student achievement. We found that favorable conditions of work predict higher rates of student academic growth, even when we compare schools serving demographically similar groups of students. Conclusions/Recommendations: In short, we found that the conditions of teachers’ work matter a great deal. These results align with a growing body of work examining the organizational characteristics of the schools in which teachers work. Together, these studies suggest strongly that the high turnover rates of teachers in schools with substantial populations of low-income and minority students are driven largely by teachers fleeing the dysfunctional and unsupportive work environments in the schools to which low-income and minority students are most likely to be assigned. If public education is to provide effective teachers for all students, then the schools those students attend must become places that support effective teaching and learning across all classrooms. ”

Ladd, H. F. (2011). Teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions: How predictive of planned and actual teacher movement? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(2), 235–261. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This quantitative study examines the relationship between teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions and their intended and actual departures from schools. Based on rich administrative data for North Carolina combined with a 2006 statewide survey administered to all teachers in the state, the study documents that working conditions are highly predictive of teachers’ intended movement away from their schools, independent of other school characteristics such as the racial mix of students. Moreover, school leadership, broadly defined, emerges as the most salient dimension of working conditions. Although teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions are less predictive of one-year actual departure rates than of intended rates, their predictive power is still on a par with that of other school characteristics. The models are estimated separately for elementary, middle and high school teachers and generate some policy-relevant differences among the three levels.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Lasagna, M. (2009). Key issue: Increasing teacher retention to facilitate the equitable distribution of effective teachers. Washington, DC: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The term ‘teacher retention’ refers to the ability to keep teachers on the job. In other words, it is the ability to reduce or eliminate teacher turnover. ‘Turnover’ refers to the migration of teachers between schools or districts ‘and’ the attrition of teachers from the profession (Ingersoll & Perda, 2009). From the perspective of a principal, both are problems of equal concern. From the perspective of a policymaker seeking to improve teacher quality systemwide, however, it is a more nuanced concern. One principal’s turnover may be another principal’s recruitment boon. If the latter principal is leading a hard-to-staff school, such migration may be welcomed as a move toward a more equitable distribution of teachers. Both migration and attrition are costly, with taxpayers losing approximately $2.2 billion per year to teacher migration and $2.7 billion per year to teacher attrition (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005). Although the retention of ineffective teaches should of course be discouraged, increasing the retention of effective teachers in the profession will serve all principals well. In high-needs districts, where teacher turnover tends to be highest, improving teacher retention is particularly important. Tracking the movement of teachers between schools, districts, and states as well as into and out of the profession is a good first step to help policymakers and school leaders develop effective strategies for improving teacher retention. This Key Issue offers strategies to improve the retention of qualified and effective teachers in hard-to-staff schools.”

Lazarev, V., Toby, M., Zacamy, J., Lin, L., & Newman, D. (2017). Indicators of successful teacher recruitment and retention in Oklahoma rural schools (REL 2018–275). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Recruiting and retaining effective teachers are serious concerns throughout Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State School Boards Association (2016) reported 500 teacher vacancies at the beginning of the 2015/16 school year, according to a survey of school districts, and 53 percent of respondents said the teacher shortage was worse than in the previous year. For years, Oklahoma rural school district administrators have reported difficulty retaining teachers who could cross state lines for higher pay and lower class sizes or seek employment in other industries. In 2013 the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction established the Oklahoma Educator Workforce Shortage Task Force to recommend measures to alleviate the “significant and widespread shortages” of classroom teachers. The task force was succeeded in September 2015 by the Teacher Shortage Task Force, which was established to identify and recommend successful strategies for curbing the statewide teacher shortage crisis and which recommended several strategies for placing highly qualified teachers in all Oklahoma classrooms. The state's teacher shortage, as well as the unique context of rural schools in Oklahoma, led members of the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest Oklahoma Rural Schools Research Alliance to seek information about factors associated with successful teacher recruitment and retention in Oklahoma. The goal was to develop effective strategies for recruiting and retaining teachers in rural schools. In response, this study identified factors that can support teacher recruitment and retention, particularly malleable factors that can be controlled through policies and interventions. This report refers to these factors as indicators of the characteristics of teachers or districts that predict successful teacher recruitment and retention. While associations between indicators and outcomes cannot be interpreted as causal--a specific indicator is not necessarily the cause of a related outcome--the results from this study can be used to pinpoint potential problems and inform future policies. The results can also provide a rationale for experimental evaluations of programs aiming to improve teacher recruitment and retention. The study first explores patterns of teacher job mobility in Oklahoma, including teachers’ probability of remaining employed in the same district for a given number of years, the proportion of teachers who leave rural school districts and move to another rural school district, the proportion of teachers who receive tenure, and the one year retention probability for each successive year of employment. Patterns of teacher job mobility are examined for any differences between rural and nonrural school districts. The study was designed to identify teacher, district, and community characteristics in rural Oklahoma that predict which teachers are most likely to be successfully recruited (defined as having completed a probationary period of three years and obtained tenure in their fourth year of teaching) and retained longer term (defined as the duration of employment of tenured teachers in a given school district). This study covers the 10 school years between 2005/06 and 2014/15 and uses teacher and district data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Oklahoma Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, and community characteristics from data in federal noneducation sources and publicly available geographic information systems from Google Maps.”

Podgursky, M., Ehlert, M., Lindsay, J., & Wan, Y. (2016). An examination of the movement of educators within and across three Midwest Region states. (REL 2017–185). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Education leaders have expressed concern about educators’ moving to different schools—within the same state or in another state—because these moves create costs for the home district and have potential impacts on the equitable distribution of effective educators among schools. However, many states do not routinely monitor mobility among educators. Such was the case in Minnesota in fall 2012, when Minnesota members of the Midwest Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance requested that Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest examine two issues: anecdotal evidence suggested that a substantial number of educators were leaving urban schools that serve low-income students to work in suburban schools that serve more affluent students and that a disproportionate number of teachers were leaving positions in Minnesota schools to take teaching positions in the neighboring states of Iowa and Wisconsin. In response to these concerns, REL Midwest conducted a study on the mobility of teachers and administrators in public schools within and between Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The study was supported by representatives of the state education agency in each state. This study is the first to examine educator mobility using the same methodology across these three states. The findings provide initial insights into the intrastate and interstate mobility of educators and whether educators are more likely to move away from certain types of schools (raising the issue of equitable distribution of educators), whether some states are losing substantial numbers of teachers to neighboring states, and whether states are obtaining substantial numbers of educators from neighboring states. Key findings include the following: (1) The average annual percentage of teachers and administrators moving to another school in the same state each year between 2006/07 and 2010/11 was 6.8 percent in Iowa, 9.3 percent in Minnesota, and 8.2 percent in Wisconsin; (2) The annual intrastate mobility rate for teachers ranged from 5.5 percent to 7.1 percent in Iowa, 8.4 percent to 9.8 percent in Minnesota, and 7.0 percent to 10.7 percent in Wisconsin between 2006/07 and 2010/11; (3) The percentage of educators working in one school in 2006/07 and another school in the same state in 2011/12 was 19.3 percent in Iowa, 21.0 percent in Minnesota, and 19.7 percent in Wisconsin; (4) The teacher mobility rate varied by subject area taught and across regions within states. Special education and foreign language teachers had the highest mobility rates in all three states; (5) Teachers were more likely to move to another school if they had less teaching experience, were in an urban school, or taught in a school with lower average academic performance, fewer students, or more economically disadvantaged students. The relationships between these characteristics and the mobility of principals were less consistent; and (6) Between 2005/06 and 2011/12 total exits and inflows of educators among these three states totaled less than 0.1 percent of the average educator workforce.”

Pratt, T., & Booker, L. (2014). Teacher retention in Tennessee: Are we keeping our best teachers? Policy brief. Nashville, TN: Tennessee Department of Education. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “While most teachers in Tennessee remain in their positions for many years, it is also the case that some of the most effective teachers depart each year, either to go teach in a different school, a different district, or sometimes to leave the profession entirely. Not all of these moves are avoidable, but finding ways to retain as many high quality teachers as possible represents a central challenge for all administrators. This brief adds to a substantial body of research on teacher retention by focusing on the relationship between retention rates and teacher effectiveness and the variation across schools and districts in the state of Tennessee. The report addresses the following questions: (1) What are the overall retention rates in Tennessee public schools? How does the likelihood that a teacher remains for another year differ by the teachers’ years of teaching experience; (2) How do retention rates vary according to teachers’ overall level of effectiveness derived from Tennessee's multiple measure teacher evaluation system (TEAM); (3) Are highly effective early career and minority teachers retained at similar rates to other highly effective teachers; (4) How do overall retention rates and the retention rates of highly effective teachers vary across districts; and Does district size help to explain any variation; and (5) What school-level factors seem to be driving retention, particularly of highly effective teachers? Possible strategies for improving work conditions with the goal of increasing school level retention of highly effective teachers are presented.”

SERVE Center for Continuous Improvement at UNCG. (2006). Teacher retention at low-performing schools: Using the evidence. Greensboro, NC: Author. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In 2004-2005, North Carolina’s average teacher turnover rate was nearly 13 percent, ranging from a high of 29 percent to a low of 4 percent. Turnover among teachers in low-performing schools was substantially higher, with a low of 12 percent and a high of 57 percent. North Carolina has put strategies in place to address teacher retention but how will these strategies impact retention at low-performing schools? This research update summarizes three studies that address issues related to teacher retention. One study examined North Carolina’s use of an annual bonus to certified math, science and special education teachers working in high poverty or academically failing public secondary schools. The study found that: (1) The bonus payment was sufficient to reduce mean turnover rates of the targeted teachers by 12 percent; (2) Responses to the program were concentrated among experienced teachers; and (3) In 2003-04, 17 percent of principals in schools with the program did not know their schools had ever been eligible and 13 percent of teachers receiving the program that year did not know they were eligible. Implications of the study indicate that: (1) Supplemental pay may be a promising approach to retaining teachers in hard to staff subjects and schools; and (2) Greater efforts must be made to promote such programs. A second study examined 272 hard-to-staff schools and found that: (1) Minority, disadvantaged, and academically struggling students are more likely to be in hard-to-staff schools and less likely to have experienced, effective teachers; (2) In 2000-01, in hard-to-staff schools, 71 percent of students performed at grade level on End of Grade or End of Course tests, compared with 80 percent of students in other schools; (3) In hard-to-staff schools, 62 percent of the students are ethnic minorities, compared to 39 percent of the students in other schools; (4) In hard-to-staff schools, 47 percent of students were eligible for free/reduced price lunch compared to 35 percent of those in other schools; (5) Forty-two percent of hard-to-staff schools are middle schools, while only 18 percent of other schools are middle schools; and (6) Teachers in hard-to-staff schools are less satisfied with every aspect of the school environment than their peers. These findings indicate that: (1) Addressing working conditions will be essential to reducing teacher turnover; and (2) Efforts to reduce teacher turnover should target conditions in hard-to-staff schools. A literature review of teacher retention, including both quantitative and qualitative studies found: (1) The issue of retaining teachers is one of retaining quality teachers who positively influence student learning, not just retaining all teachers; (2) Teachers who feel effective with their students are more likely to stay; (3) Teachers in collaborative, collegial environments are more likely to stay; (4) Increased pay is positively associated with retention; (5) Turnover is highest among high poverty, high minority schools; (6) Teachers entering the classroom through Alternative Certification Programs are more likely to leave the classroom; (7) Teachers teaching out-of-field and teaching courses requiring many different preps have lower job satisfaction; (8) Late hiring and lack of information in the hiring process can negatively influence retention; and (9) Poor facilities are associated with increased turnover. The review concludes that many factors contribute to increasing teacher retention, so single-pronged approaches will have much less chance of success.”

Simon, N. S., & Johnson, S. M. (2015). Teacher turnover in high-poverty schools: What we know and can do. Teachers College Record, 117(3), 1–36. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Background/Context: Over the past three decades, teacher turnover has increased substantially in U.S. public schools, especially in those serving large portions of low-income students of color. Teachers who choose to leave high-poverty schools serving large numbers of students of color usually transfer to schools serving wealthier, Whiter student populations. Some researchers have interpreted this trend to mean that ‘teachers systematically favor higher-achieving, non-minority, non-low-income students.’ These ideas have influenced policy analysis concerning high-poverty schools but offered little guidance for those who would address this problem. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article presents an alternative explanation for turnover—one grounded in organizational theory and substantiated by an emerging line of research. In doing so, it reframes the debate over what fuels high rates of teacher turnover in high-poverty schools and provides advice for policy makers and practitioners, as well as recommendations for productive possibilities for future research. Research Design: This article reviews six studies analyzing turnover as a function of school context rather than as a function of student demographics. Based on the patterns regarding what factors influence teacher departures across these studies, we pursue these predictors by summarizing what is known about them and how each supports teachers’ work. Findings/Results: The six overarching studies reviewed here collectively suggest that teachers who leave high-poverty schools are not fleeing their students. Rather, they are fleeing the poor working conditions that make it difficult for them to teach and for their students to learn. The working conditions that teachers prize most—and those that best predict their satisfaction and retention—are social in nature. They include school leadership, collegial relationships, and elements of school culture.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The poor working conditions common in America’s neediest schools explain away most, if not all, of the relationship between student characteristics and teacher attrition. This is important because, unlike demographic characteristics of students, working conditions can be addressed. Policy makers and practitioners have many options for improving aspects of the school environment, and, although more research can inform this work, much is already known about what matters to teachers as they are deciding whether to continue teaching in their schools.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Silva, T., McKie, A., & Gleason, P. (2015). New findings on the retention of novice teachers from teaching residency programs. (NCEE Evaluation Brief, NCEE 2015-4015). Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This brief updates earlier study findings (Silva et al., 2014) regarding the extent to which teachers trained through teaching residency programs (TRPs) funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Partnership grants program are retained in their districts and schools. TRPs prepare new teachers primarily through a year-long residency in a high-need school and integrated coursework leading to a master’s degree. This brief examines two cohorts of novice TRP teachers—those who were in their first year of teaching and those who were in their second year of teaching during the 2011-2012 school year. It looks at the rates at which the TRP teachers were retained in the same district or the same school as of fall 2013. To provide contextual information, the study also includes a representative sample of teachers who were in their first or second year of teaching during the 2011-2012 school year and were trained through other (non-TRP) programs. The retention analyses focus on teachers from six districts served by 12 TRPs. Key findings from the study include: (1) TRP teachers were more likely to remain teaching in the same district than non-TRP teachers with similar teaching placements; (2) School-retention rates were similar between the two groups of teachers; and (3) TRP teachers who moved to different schools in the same district tended to join ones where a similar proportion of students were from low-income families, a lower percentage were black, and achievement was higher. The appendix presents information on the following: (1) characteristics of programs in and out of the sample used for the retention analyses; (2) how ineligible teachers were excluded from the study; (3) the analytic approach to estimating retention rates; and (4) the results of a sensitivity analysis concerning the estimate of teacher retention rates.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

Center on Great Teachers & Leaders –

From the website: “The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) is dedicated to supporting state education leaders in their efforts to grow, respect, and retain great teachers and leaders for all students. The GTL Center continues the work of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (TQ Center) and expands its focus to provide technical assistance and online resources designed to build systems that:

  • Support the implementation of college and career standards.
  • Ensure the equitable access of effective teachers and leaders.
  • Recruit, retain, reward, and support effective educators.
  • Develop coherent human capital management systems.
  • Create safe academic environments that increase student learning through positive behavior management and appropriate discipline.
  • Use data to guide professional development and improve instruction.”

National Center for Education Statistics: Schools and Staffing Survey –

From the website: “The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) was conducted by NCES seven times between 1987 through 2011. SASS was an integrated study public and private school districts, schools, principals, and teachers designed to provide descriptive data on the context of elementary and secondary education. SASS covered a wide range of topics from teacher demand, teacher and principal characteristics, general conditions in schools, principals’ and teachers’ perceptions of school climate and problems in their schools, teacher compensation, district hiring and retention practices, to basic characteristics of the student population. After 2010–11, NCES redesigned SASS and named it the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) to reflect the redesigned study’s focus on the teacher and principal labor market and on the state of K-12 school staff. NCES first conducted NTPS in 2015–16.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Teacher recruitment

  • Teacher retention

  • Teacher retention academic performance

  • Teacher retention disadvantaged

  • Teacher retention minority

  • Teacher retention questionnaire

  • Teacher retention high poverty

  • Teacher retention organization

  • Teacher turnover

Databases and Search Engines

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 IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

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

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its 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.