The rate at which new teachers leave the teaching profession is lower than previously believed, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. 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, finds that just 17 percent of new teachers left their jobs within the first five years—a much lower attrition rate than the previously believed rate of nearly 50 percent.
The Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS) attempts to address the shortcomings of previous teacher retention research, which the report said was “sometimes inconsistent” or only covered two years of teachers’ careers. Researchers at IES followed 1,990 first-year public school teachers who entered the profession in School Year (SY) 2007–08 through SY 2011–12.
According to the report, 10 percent of all beginning teachers in SY 2007–08 did not teach the following year, while 17.3 percent did not teach in SY 2011–12. The report also finds that 74 percent of beginning teachers taught in the same school during their second year as their first year and 70 percent taught in the same school in their fifth year. Among teachers who moved schools in their second and fifth years, 21 percent and 40 percent, respectively, moved unwillingly due to their contracts not being renewed.
IES researchers also examined the effects of mentorship on the attrition rates of new teachers, finding that teachers who have access to peer mentoring leave the profession at a much lower rate than those who do not. After the first year, 92 percent of teachers with first-year mentors were still teaching, compared with 84 percent without mentors. After five years, 86 percent of teachers who had first-year mentors were still teaching, compared to 71 percent without mentors.
The report also finds that male teachers tend to drop out of the profession at a faster rate than female teachers, with 21 percent of men leaving the profession after the fifth year compared to 15 percent of women. Overall, white teachers remain in the profession at a greater rate compared to other ethnicities, but the retention rates among all groups are similar. Among white, non-Hispanic teachers, 83 percent were still teaching after five years, compared to 80 percent of all other races and ethnicities.
Retention rates were somewhat dependent on salary as 97 percent of teachers making $40,000 or more were still teaching in the second year, compared to 87 percent of those making less than $40,000, the report finds.
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 is available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015337.pdf.