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Teacher Attrition Costs United States Up to $2.2 Billion Annually, Says New Alliance Report

Press Release:

Teacher Attrition Costs United States Up to $2.2 Billion Annually, Says New Alliance Report

Report Includes State-by-State Teacher Attrition Costs, Says Comprehensive Induction Programs Can Improve Teaching Effectiveness and Retain High-Quality Teachers

WASHINGTON, DC – Roughly half a million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year—attrition that costs the United States up to $2.2 billion annually, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education. This high turnover rate disproportionately affects high-poverty schools and seriously compromises the nation’s capacity to ensure that all students have access to skilled teaching, says On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers.

“Teacher attrition hits states and school districts in the wallet, but students and teachers pay the real price,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “The monetary cost of teacher attrition pales in comparison to the loss of human potential associated with hard-to-staff schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In these schools, poor learning climates and low achievement often result in students—and teachers—leaving in droves.”

The report cites the well-established principle that teaching quality is the most powerful school-based factor in student learning—one that outweighs students’ social and economic background in accounting for differences in student learning. It also notes that chronic gaps remain in disadvantaged students’ access to effective teaching—a scenario that unmistakably harms students, but also has an impact on teachers.

Without access to excellent peers, mentors, and opportunities for collaboration and feedback, teachers’ performance in high-poverty schools plateaus after a few years and both morale and work environment suffer. Ultimately, the report notes, these hard-to-staff schools become known as “places to leave, not places in which to stay.” According to the report, high-poverty schools experience a teacher turnover rate of about 20 percent per calendar year—roughly 50 percent higher than the rate in more affluent schools.

To calculate the cost of teacher attrition, the Alliance worked with Richard Ingersoll, professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to the national figure, Ingersoll also provides cost estimates for all fifty states and the District of Columbia that range between roughly $2 million in Delaware, Vermont, and Wyoming and up to $235 million in Texas.

Teachers leave their profession for a variety of reasons, including inadequate administrative support, isolated working conditions, poor student discipline, low salaries, and a lack of collective teacher influence over schoolwide decisions. Turnover is especially high among new teachers, with 40 to 50 percent leaving the profession after five years, according to research cited in the report.

To curb turnover—especially among new teachers—the report recommends a comprehensive induction program comprised of multiple types of support, including high-quality mentoring, common planning times, and ongoing support from school leaders. Teachers who receive such support have higher levels of job satisfaction, rate higher in their classroom teaching practices, and are associated with higher levels of student achievement. Unfortunately, only about half of novice teachers receive mentoring from a teacher in their teaching field or have common planning time with other teachers.

The good news is that multiple initiatives are now under way to develop professional standards for beginning teachers, strengthen preparation, and shape strategies to address the developmental needs of teachers throughout their careers. The report highlights the work of the New Teacher Center (NTC), a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Santa Cruz, California that partners with states, districts, and policymakers and has established a well-designed, evidence-based induction model for beginning teachers that increases teacher retention, improves classroom effectiveness, and advances student learning.

NTC also partners with states and districts to report data on teaching and learning conditions using its Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning (TELL) survey to help states develop policies and practices that connect related factors, such as school leadership, teaching, and learning conditions, and specific educator policies.

On the Path to Equity cautions that policies to improve teaching effectiveness are complex and depend on individual teachers’ abilities as well as the working conditions within schools. It adds that systemic approaches are needed to reverse the inequities in the distribution of teaching talent and to foster school environments that support the kind of ongoing, intensive professional learning that positively impacts student learning. To this end, the report offers five policy recommendations for states and districts:

  • Require regular evaluations of teachers using multiple measures.
  • Develop systems to encourage high-quality educator development and teaching.
  • Require comprehensive induction programs for new teachers.
  • Embed analysis and improvement of teaching and learning conditions.
  • Support staff selection and professional growth systems that foster collegial collaboration.

“To fundamentally transform education and help students meet the higher performance required by the Common Core State Standards and other college- and career-ready standards, the culture of how teachers are supported must change,” said Wise. “Such a change requires new initiatives and structures to attract, develop, and retain the best teaching talent in high schools serving students with the greatest needs, as well as a system that ensures that new teachers receive comprehensive induction and access to school-based collaborative learning.”

On the Path to Equity includes a state-by-state breakdown detailing the number of teachers leaving the profession, as well as a low and high estimate of teacher attrition costs. It is available at

At 1:00 p.m. (EDT) today, the Alliance will hold a video webinar on the report that will feature Mariana Haynes, PhD, Senior Fellow, Alliance for Excellent Education; Terry Holliday, PhD, Commissioner of Education, Kentucky Department of Education; Richard Ingersoll, PhD, Professor of Education and Sociology, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania; and Ellen Moir, Executive Director, New Teacher Center. RSVP to watch the webinar at


The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

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  1. photo
    Sharon Huff
    Posted 7 years ago

    Hats off to those that are recognizing the problems in education, but unfortunately, the solutions only complicate the underlying problem. More hours of “teacher training”, “best teaching practices”, and negative comments meant to improve instruction does not ” …a good teacher make….!!.”
    Teaching young students, by nature, requires an amazing commitment of both time and sacrifice that many are not willing to give in these last generations of educators. As a retired educator, it was common in the 1980’s and early 90’s to see my peers giving up nights and weekends to plan for their students and provide meaningful experiences whether aimed toward a particular educational objective or culminating a years worth of learning. However, my experiences as grade chair leader in the late 90’s and 2000’s, is for younger educators to “not have time” for that “non-instructive stuff” or “my own time will not be sacrificed” to get that lesson plan, report, or paper work in on time. How do you teach commitment? It has to come from an inherent love for what you are doing. Not a paycheck or a smile from the principal.
    If you are choosing to educate young people as a career then spend time with children first!! Volunteer at libraries or shelters. See if you really like them. If you do you will have a wonderful experience, but if you don’t please choose another career.

    In short, we are not reinforcing the training of educators that are willing to give their heart, soul, money, time, and sweat to this occupation anymore. That is sad but true. It is a lucky student that gets a teacher with these attributes. I was lucky to have taught in a time that treasured our real commitment to students and not the “making our administrators look good”, behavior that has taken the place of that. If you are an administrator, please look for the real commitment and not for the higher test score!!
    Good luck to all!!

  2. photo
    Posted 6 years ago

    The TELL survey was conducted in Kentucky with leadership by Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday. In the spring of 2011, over 42,000 participants, representing more than 80% of the state’s educators completed the survey! View the survey results here

  3. photo
    Posted 6 years ago

    Sharon, while I admire your commitment to working long hours and I truly love my students, the realities of being expected to work 60-80 hours a week in order to serve underprivileged students at the expense of my own children not getting time and attention from me is both not sustainable and unfair to ask of me as a teacher. Teachers should not be required to be martyrs, sacrificing all of their time, their families and their health, in order to serve kids. Education needs more funding, more support and the workload needs to be shared across more people. As much as I love my students, when my daughter tells me that she hopes I am fired because I spend so much time working, then I need to reevaluate my priorities. Teaching is not sustainable right now and it’s not the fault of teachers who are putting their foot down and saying they won’t work all night and every weekend to get the work done.

  4. photo
    Posted 6 years ago

    As a 3rd year teacher, I find it highly offensive that you suggest that the problem with teaching today is that the new generation of teachers is not willing to work hard or that we do not love our jobs or our students enough to put in the hours. I work hours past my contract every day and work every weekend, and it is still not enough. The problem is this “new generation” is demanded to do more. Since the 80’s and 90’s, the education system has added No Child Left Behind, a myriad of high stakes tests, Common Core Standards, teacher evaluations that are tied to pay, to name a few, along with higher rates of poverty and non-English speaking students. As a retired educator, I wish you could be an advocate for teachers, rather than being yet another person to belittle our profession and accuse us of laziness when we demand support and compensation for our jobs.

  5. photo
    Caroline Lewis
    Posted 6 years ago

    Good food for thought and great links. However, you wisely identify the problems but fail to address them in your solutions. If we understand why we are not attracting and retaining quality teachers:

    “Teachers leave their profession for a variety of reasons, including inadequate administrative support, isolated working conditions, poor student discipline, low salaries, and a lack of collective teacher influence over schoolwide decisions. Turnover is especially high among new teachers, with 40 to 50 percent leaving the profession after five years, according to research cited in the report.”

    …Why aren’t we addressing all of the problems? Education Reform demands that we simultaneously address the three-legs of the stool: (A) The readiness of the learner to learn; (B) The readiness of the teacher to teach; and (C) School culture and leadership that attend to (A) and (B). This requires committed funding to scale solutions.

    The blame game seems to center on teacher quality – which we won’t fix if we do not raise salaries, training requirements and expectations. I’m starting to think this great profession is unravelling so quickly, we must find dramatic ways to make teaching “noble” again.

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