Chronic Teacher Turnover in Urban Elementary Schools

August 2004

This paper is published in the Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 12, No. 42, August 16, 2004.

This study examines the characteristics of elementary schools that experience chronic teacher turnover and the impacts of turnover on a school's working climate and ability to effectively function. Based on evidence from staff climate surveys and case studies, it is clear that high turnover schools face significant organizational challenges. Schools with high teacher turnover rates have difficulty planning and implementing a coherent curriculum and sustaining positive working relationships among teachers. The reality of these organizational challenges is particularly alarming, given that high turnover schools are more likely to serve low-income and minority students. The negative relationship between teacher turnover and school functioning, and the fact that turbulent schools are disproportionately likely to serve lowincome and minority students have important implications for both district and school-level policies.

Future research is needed to address the causal link between turnover, organizational functioning and student outcomes. Additionally, there is a need for research examining district policies that may facilitate teacher turnover within a district, including how districts place and transfer teachers, as well as how teachers' salaries are budgeted.

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