Teacher retention is a significant issue in addressing teacher shortages, inequity, student learning, and the efficient use of school resources. Authors find that many of the teacher shortage issues are rooted in not retaining effective educators. Additionally, effective teachers are not equally distributed across schools with underserved students who are exposed to a disproportionate number of less experienced and less effective teachers. Compensation, working conditions, teacher preparation, induction, and school leadership are all factors in retention.


Allensworth, E., Ponisciak, S., & Mazzeo, C. (2009). The schools teachers leave: Teacher mobility in Chicago Public Schools. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED505882

Using 35,000 personnel records, the authors identified approximately 100 Chicago schools that experienced chronically high rates of teacher turnover. In typical Chicago elementary and high schools, more than 50% of teachers who were teaching in 2002 were gone by 2006. They looked at various factors associated with high mobility rates as well as workforce conditions.


Borman, G. D., & Dowling, N. M. (2008). Teacher attrition and retention: A meta-analytic and narrative review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 367-409. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654308321455

This is one of the only meta-analyses of teacher career trajectories. The authors found that personal characteristics of teachers are important predictors of turnover. Attributes of teachers’ schools, including organizational characteristics, student body composition, and resources (instructional spending and teacher salaries) are also key moderators. The authors suggest that attrition is not necessarily “healthy” turnover. Turnover is influenced by various personal and professional factors that change across teachers’ career paths – particularly teachers’ work conditions. They suggest that this is a problem that can be addressed through policies and initiatives.


Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2010). The influence of school administrators on teacher retention decisions. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2), 303-333. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831210380788

In a large empirical study of New York City teachers, the authors found that teachers’ perceptions of the school administration had by far the greatest influence on teacher retention decisions. This effect of administration was consistent for first-year teachers and the full sample of teachers and is confirmed by a survey of teachers who have recently left teaching.


Bueno, C., & Sass, T. R. (2019). The effects of differential pay on teacher recruitment and retention. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED595205

Interested in the role bonuses could play in teacher recruitment and teacher retention, particularly in hard-to-hire fields such as mathematics and science, the authors studied Georgia’s bonus system. They found that bonuses reduced teacher attrition by 18 to 28%. However, they found no evidence the bonuses increased the probability that education majors became secondary mathematics or science teachers upon graduation or altered specific major choices within the education field.


Carver-Thomas, D. (2018). Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color. Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/diversifying-teaching-profession-report

This report identifies benefits to diversifying the teaching profession, barriers to recruiting and retaining teachers, as well as promising practices. The promising practices are organized around: high-retention, supportive pathways to teaching that include service scholarships, funded teacher residencies, and Grow Your Own programs; hiring and induction strategies that include hiring earlier in the year, partnerships, comprehensive induction, and including teachers of color in the hiring process; and improving school conditions through improved leadership by using the 3% leadership set-aside funds from Title II to improve principal recruitment, preparation, induction, and development of supportive school leadership.


Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2019). The trouble with teacher turnover: How teacher attrition affects students and schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27(36). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.3699

The authors found that alternatively certified teachers still left their positions at rates 25% higher than traditionally certified teachers. The study found higher turnover rates in the South; among mathematics, science, special education, English language development, and world languages teachers; in schools serving students of color and from low-income families; and among teachers of color. The study also found that several factors were associated with higher turnover rates, including lack of administrative support, teacher salaries, and alternative certification. The paper includes policy strategies that could reduce teacher turnover.


Darling-Hammond, L. (2003). Keeping good teachers: Why it matters and what leaders can do. Educational Leadership, 60(8), 6-13.

Three important findings emerged here: 1) In addition to salaries, class sizes, teaching loads, and the availability of materials, teacher participation in decision-making, strong and supportive instructional leadership from principals, and collegial learning opportunities mattered for the recruitment and retention of teachers. 2) Seeking out and hiring better prepared teachers resulted in lower attrition and higher levels of competence, which reduced later costs for dealing with unnecessary student failure as well as unnecessary teacher failure. 3) When the high costs of attrition were calculated, mentoring and ongoing learning and leadership challenges actually paid for themselves in large degree.


Darling-Hammond, L., & Sykes, G. (2003). Wanted: A national teacher supply policy for education: The right way to meet the “Highly Qualified Teacher” challenge. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11(33). Retrieved from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v11n33/

The authors cited several state and local programs that were meeting the demand for qualified teachers, but they advocated for a federal initiative to enhance the supply of qualified teachers by removing interstate barriers to mobility.


DeAngelis, K. J., Wall, A. F., & Che, J. (2013). The impact of preservice preparation and early career support on novice teachers’ career intentions and decisions. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(4), 338-355. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487113488945

In addition to comprehensive induction and mentoring, the authors found that first-year teachers who felt they were well prepared for teaching were much more likely to plan to stay in teaching than those who felt poorly prepared.


Goldhaber, D., Lavery, L., & Theobald, R. (2015). Uneven playing field? Assessing the teacher quality gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Educational Researcher, 44(5), 293-307. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X15592622

In a study in Washington state, the authors found empirical evidence of inequitable distribution of teachers based on teacher experience, licensure exam scores, and value-added test scores and underserved students. This included the district, school, and classroom levels. This inequity should be a cause for concern related to the recruitment and retention of teachers.


Gray, L., & Taie, S. (2015). Public school teacher attrition and mobility in the first five years: Results from the first through fifth waves of the 2007–08 beginning teacher longitudinal study (NCES 2015-337). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch

Using the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study to determine attrition rates of beginning teachers, the authors found that teachers with higher beginning salaries and mentors were more likely to stay. Additionally, 30 percent of uncertified teachers left the profession within five-years compared to 15 percent of certified teachers.


Guarino, C. M., Santibañez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of the recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173-208. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543076002173

While a bit dated, this review of empirical studies related to teacher recruitment and retention is still relevant and instructive. The authors identified characteristics of the people who entered and remained in the teaching profession, the types of schools that hired and retained them, and the policies that supported recruitment and retention.


Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). Teacher turnover and teacher shortages: An organizational analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 499-534.

Ingersoll argues that teacher shortages were not due to too few teachers being produced. Instead, he found that school staffing problems were primarily due to excess demand resulting from a “revolving door” — where large numbers of qualified teachers departed their jobs for reasons other than retirement. Moreover, the volume of turnover accounted for by retirement was relatively minor when compared to that associated with other factors such as teacher job dissatisfaction and teachers pursuing other jobs.


Ingersoll, R. M. (2002). The teacher shortage: A case of wrong diagnosis and wrong prescription. NASSP Bulletin, 86(631), 16-31. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/019263650208663103

Based on data from the School Staffing Survey and the Teacher Follow Up Survey, Ingersoll found that school staffing problems were not principally due to teacher shortages; they did not seem to stem from an insufficient supply of qualified teachers but from an excess demand. The data indicate large numbers of qualified teachers were departing their jobs for reasons other than retirement. Popular education initiatives, such as teacher recruitment programs, will not solve schools’ staffing problems if they do not also address the organizational sources of low teacher retention.


Ingersoll, R. M., & Collins, M. G. (2017). Minority teacher recruitment, employment, and retention: 1987 to 2013. Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/minority-teacher-recruitment-report

While still underrepresented when compared to the student population, teachers of color comprised 20 percent of the teacher workforce in 2015–16, up from just 12 percent 30 years ago.


Ingersoll, R., Merrill, L., & May, H. (2014). What are the effects of teacher education and preparation on beginning teacher attrition? (#RR-82). Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from https://www.cpre.org/sites/default/files/researchreport/2018_prepeffects2014.pdf

The authors found that having strong preparation for teaching increased teachers’ sense of efficacy, a key factor related to the likelihood that teachers would remain in the profession.


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

Using survey data from Massachusetts, the authors found that the high turnover rates of teachers in schools with substantial populations of low-income and minority students were driven largely by teachers fleeing the dysfunctional and unsupportive work environments in the schools to which low-income and minority students were most likely to be assigned.


Kane, T. J., Rockoff, J. E., & Staiger, D. O. (2008). What does certification tell us about teacher effectiveness? Evidence from New York City. Economics of Education Review, 27(6), 615-631.

While they did not find Teach for America teachers to be significantly less effective than other teachers, the authors found that teaching fellows had very similar retention rates to regular certified teachers (with teaching fellows having slightly higher retention rates in the first two years). By their fifth year in teaching (with four years of experience), approximately 50 percent of both groups were still with the district. Uncertified teachers had somewhat lower retention rates, with 45 percent remaining with the district in their fifth year. In contrast, Teach for America corps members had much lower cumulative retention rates. By the fifth year, only about 18 percent of corps members remained with the district.


Kohli, R. (2018). Behind school doors: The impact of hostile racial climates on urban teachers of color. Urban Education, 53(3), 307-333. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085916636653

The author found that urban schools — despite serving majority students of Color—operated as hostile racial climates. Color blindness and racial microaggressions manifested as macro and micro forms of racism and took a toll on the professional growth and retention of teachers of color.


Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Leavers, movers, and stayers: The role of workplace conditions in teacher mobility decisions. The Journal of Educational Research, 102(6), 443-452. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3200/JOER.102.6.443-452

The author explored whether three workplace conditions were related to teacher mobility decisions. The modeling strategy estimated the effects of administrative support, classroom control, and behavioral climate on teachers’ decisions to quit teaching or switch schools. The results indicate that two of the three workplace conditions were strongly related to the mobility decisions of first-year teachers, whereas experienced teachers were not strongly influenced by workplace conditions. Results also show that workplace conditions had differential effects on movers and leavers.


Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2002). Teacher sorting and the plight of urban schools: A descriptive analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(1), 37-62. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/01623737024001037

Similar to findings from other studies, urban schools had less-qualified teachers. Low-income, low-achieving and non-White students, particularly those in urban areas, found themselves in classes with many of the least skilled teachers.


Marinell, W. H., & Coca, V. M. (n.d.). Who stays and who leaves? Findings from a three-part study of teacher turnover in NYC middle schools. New York, NY: Research Alliance for NYC Schools.

In this study of over 4,000 New York City middle school teachers, 27 percent left their schools within one year of having entered; 55 percent left within three years; and 66 percent left within five years. On average, teachers remained in their schools for slightly less than three years.


Papay, J., Bacher-Hicks, A., Page, L. C., & Marinell, W. H. (2017). The challenge of teacher retention in urban schools: Evidence of variation from a cross-site analysis. Educational Researcher, 46(8), 434-448. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X17735812

The authors applied consistent data practices and analytical techniques to administrative data sets from 16 urban districts. They found substantial cross-district variation in teacher retention rates. Observable characteristics do not easily explain this cross-district variation. Findings like this demonstrate the complexity of finding the causes of teacher attrition.


Podolsky, A., Kini, T., Darling-Hammond, L., & Bishop, J. (2019). Strategies for attracting and retaining educators: What does the evidence say? Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27(38). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.3722

After reviewing existing literature on recruitment and retention, the authors suggested strategies for 1) teacher preparation and costs to professional entry, 2) district hiring and personnel management, 3) teacher compensation, 4) induction, and 5) working conditions, including shared leadership.


Redding, C., & Smith, T. M. (2016). Easy in, easy out: Are alternatively certified teachers turning over at increased rates? American Educational Research Journal, 53(4), 1086-1125. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831216653206

Through an analysis of the Schools and Staffing Survey, the authors found that while the proportion of the teaching workforce entering via alternative programs increased from 13 percent in 1999-2000 to 24 percent in 2011-12, there was also a widening gap in the turnover rate between alternatively certified and traditionally certified teachers. Alternatively certified teachers were two-and-a-half times more likely to leave.


Ronfeldt, M., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). How teacher turnover harms student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 4-36. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831212463813

After reviewing data on 850,000 students over eight years, the researchers found that students in grade levels with higher teacher turnover scored lower in both English language arts (ELA) and mathematics and that these effects were particularly strong in schools with more low-performing and Black students. Moreover, the results suggest that there is a disruptive effect of turnover beyond changing the distribution in teacher quality.


Santoro, D. A. (2018). Demoralized: Why teachers leave the profession they love and how they can stay. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

In this book the author argues that the moral core of teaching must be considered in the retention of teachers. The author asserts that teachers become demoralized when they lose their moral center due to ongoing value conflicts with teaching policies, mandates, and school regulations. Teachers can find their moral core through professional communities that re-ground them.