In 1987-88, most common experience level of teachers was 15 years. Twenty years later, it was one year.

A new report examines the crisis in teacher turnover. (AJC file photo)

A new report examines the crisis in teacher turnover. (AJC file photo)

Among the furry of education reports being released this month is one from the Alliance for Excellent Education on improving teacher quality by improving the induction of new teachers.

According to the report: About 15 percent of the American workforce of 3.5 million teachers either moves (255,700) or leaves the profession (269,800) each year.  The size of the teaching force coupled with the high annual turnover rates seriously compromises the nation‘s capacity to ensure that all students have access to skilled teaching. Researchers estimate that in a 12-month period more than one million teachers — almost a third of the workforce— transition into, between, or out of schools.  High-poverty schools experience a teacher-turnover rate of about 20 percent annually — roughly 50 percent higher than the rate in more affluent schools.  The estimate of the percentage of new teachers leaving after five years ranges from 30 to 50 percent, with the greatest exodus taking place in urban areas. The cumulative costs of attrition are high— the National Commission on Teaching and America‘s Future estimates that the nation‘s school districts spend at least $7.2 billion a year on teacher turnover.  Studies suggest that the price tag for recruitment and replacement seriously underestimates the cumulative costs for eroding the caliber and stability of the teacher workforce, particularly in chronically underperforming schools serving the neediest students.

And here is a piece of data that I find incredible: The attrition rate of first-year teachers — now the largest group within the occupation — has increased by more than 40 percent over the past two decades. The influx of new teachers has neither stabilized the teaching workforce nor improved teaching quality.  In 1987–88, the most common experience level, was 15 years; by 2008, the typical teacher was in his or her first year of teaching.

Here is the official release, but read the full report if you have time:

School systems must provide greater support and sustained mentoring for teachers, especially those new to the profession, in order for students to graduate ready for college and a career, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

The report comes as most states have opted to hold their students to higher performance targets by adopting the common core state standards to make sure they have the skills to be successful after high school. However, if teachers do not begin to receive high level “induction,”— system support, professional development, and mentorship — the goals of the common core state standards will go unfulfilled,  according to the policy brief “A System Approach to Building a World-Class Teaching Profession: The Role of Induction,” which was written with the support of Metlife Foundation.

“To achieve a fundamental transformation of education and help students meet the higher performance set by the common core state standards, the very culture of how teachers are supported must change,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Coherent incentives and structures must be created to attract, develop, and retain the best teaching talent in high schools serving students with the greatest needs.”

To build a world-class teaching profession for the nation’s students, officials must develop strategies to reduce the rates in which teachers leave the profession and fix the unequal distribution of teaching talent between richer and poorer schools. The Alliance brief recommends the following solutions:

•    Develop systems that encourage high-quality educator development and teaching grounded in teaching practice that has been proven effective.

•    Design comprehensive programs for new teachers that provide coaching and guidance by well-trained mentors.

•    Determine the performance indicators that can reliably assess teacher competency and provide feedback to support professional learning.

•    Communicate core expectations for teaching practice, invest in professional development, and create organizational conditions conducive to meaningful staff collaboration and development.

Longstanding research reinforces that teaching quality outweighs even students’ social and economic backgrounds as the most powerful school-based factor in student learning. However, talented and well-prepared teacher distribution continues to be unequal among affluent schools compared to those serving low-income students and students of color. These groups of students are six times more likely than their white peers to attend a dropout factory —one of more than 1,500 high schools where fewer than 60 percent of students graduate on time, according to research at Johns Hopkins University — which is much less likely to employ teachers who are certified in the subject they teach.

The report notes that teachers in such high-need environments often lack opportunities for collaboration and feedback, and they report lower participation rates in mentoring and induction. Additionally, almost 15 percent of the American teaching workforce moves or leaves the profession each year and estimates range from 30 and 50 percent of all new teachers leaving after five years, with the greatest exodus occurring in urban areas. Recent studies suggest that the price tag for recruitment and replacement seriously underestimates the cumulative costs of the continuing erosion in the caliber and stability of the teacher workforce.

The report highlights the work of the New Teacher Center, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Cruz, California, as an example of effective induction and mentoring programs for new teachers. The organization serves as a national resource and partners with schools, districts, and policymakers to help create valuable induction programs.

With an increased emphasis on holding students to the higher common core state standards comes a need to develop a set of policies and practices for schools and districts in terms of how they attract, prepare, support, and develop teachers.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

105 comments Add your comment

[...] The modal years of teaching experience is now at 1, from 15 twenty years ago. (Atlanta J-C) [...]


October 7th, 2011
8:07 pm

How sad that educational rags and journals only print trash, deceptive, one sided opinons without ever looking below the waist! What a waste, of tax payer dollars and childrens education allowing educators and their cheerleaders to twist numbers to manipulate their own fellings of accomplishment. It would be more productive to work from the point of the failure and direct the conversation toward success! Just a thought,,,,,


October 8th, 2011
12:34 pm

@ sloboffthestreet, 8:07 pm. I am honestly confused by your “thought” here.

“Educational journals” only publish materials that consider several sides of an issue, not “one sided opinions,” and the articles are reviewed by other experts before being published. What do you mean that they do this “without ever looking below the waist”??

This study is trying to suggest ways to prevent teachers from leaving high-poverty schools, as they do now in significant numbers. How is this “twist[ing] numbers to manipulate their [whose?] own feelings of accomplishment”?

And just what does your last sentence mean?

Several of your comments on other blogs suggest an interest in how education research is done and report conclusions are reached. Maybe you should pursue this in some way, just for your own personal education? I think of, possibly, a few courses in Continuing Education programs in the local colleges/Universities, or online programs. Not for any job, but just to learn!

Just a thought…..

Shirley Rickett

October 8th, 2011
2:56 pm

I recommend Diane Ravitch’s The Life and Death of the Great American School System to understand where we’ve been and why we’re here now. The first thing that must go are high-stakes testing. Money released from buying tests, paying for grading, ranking, etc., and test prep materials would be a huge savings. Number 2: Put a ban on issuing any more charters for charter schools. Why should we allow for-profit companies to use taxpayer money to set up their for-profit businesses? Contracting always costs (at least the government) more than providing services the government used to do, or teachers making their own tests, which makes more sense than the standardized tests. Number 3: Get the government out of public education mandates like the biggest one in history–NCLB. Educate parents about their rights (opting out of standarized tests, and their child’s right to an appropriate education). When it comes to student behavior, that one will take a while. Only a change in the consumer culture and social services for dysfunctional families, alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty–will make the difference. But in the meantime, support for teachers, so they can teach, must come, must be demanded, from administrators and parents and the DOE.

2nd career teacher

October 9th, 2011
12:38 am

Shirley, love your comments. I agree the ruination of public education began when the federal government got involved. ADA has been a disaster for education. Good intents, but bad consequences. Schools were best locally and state run. For profit charters are a bad idea and a stupid waste of precious tax education dollars. The comment on testing: It wouldn’t be so bad if these tests allowed for process and thought instead of multiple choice. Multiple choice test taking is so much just eliminating wrong answers to get to the probable best. No original thought or process there. Students are taught how to pass a multiple choice test instead of how to think and express their thoughts. Blame the SAT and expensive SAT training classes for that too.
On teaching the bottom line: I am tired of 10-11 hr days (every day) with no breaks (including lunch) or ability to get to a phone, of working another 15 hrs on weekends to do the grading and planning I can’t do during the week because of meetings and bell to bell teaching (I actually TRY to help my students), and of some parents and administrators blaming me because I dare to hold their child accountable for the work they do (or don’t). I like parents (and I am one), but it is bad for parents to run down the teacher in front of the child because that teaches the child to disrespect authority. It puts the child in charge of their own life. Parents, love your kids enough to realize that they are only 12 or so and need the guidance of adults and that not all teachers are the monsters your child describes when you grill them about assignments or grades.