July 8, 2010
Teacher turnover rates at charter schools nationwide are more than double those of traditional public schools, according to a study done by the National Center on School Choice.
Researchers found that charter schools lost 25 percent of their teachers to other schools and careers while district schools lost 14 percent, a difference the report called the “turnover gap.” The report’s findings are based on teacher survey data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics from the 2003-2004 school year.
“The odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession versus staying in the same school were 130 percent greater than those of a traditional public school teacher,” the researchers noted.
The report’s authors found little data to support the idea that charter school turnover is higher because these schools have more leeway to fire teachers, a claim made by some charter school supporters.
While charter school teachers were more likely to leave their schools involuntarily than were traditional public school teachers, the report states that school closure and factors other than dismissal could account for this. Even if some of the charter school turnover is due to fired teachers leaving, most of it is “dysfunctional,” the report states.
Compared to traditional public school teachers, charter school teachers are more likely to voluntarily leave the profession or move to a new school because they are dissatisfied with the school and its working conditions.
From reading teachers’ exit surveys, the study’s authors found that the type of charter school affects teachers’ likelihood of staying put, but the schools’ age does not.
Teachers at schools that opened as charter schools were twice as likely to leave the profession and three times as likely to change schools as teachers at schools that converted from district to charter. Newer charter schools have roughly the same turnover rates as schools that have been around for more than three years.
However, a teacher’s age made a big difference.
Young teachers everywhere were more likely to leave teaching or change schools than older teachers, as were teachers who worked part time and didn’t have an education degree or state certification. The report’s authors wrote that it was “no surprise” that because charter schools employ a larger percentage of younger, uncertified, and part time teachers, their turnover rate would be higher.
“Simply put, the teaching staff of charter schools have higher concentrations of teachers that are at risk of leaving the profession,” the report states.
Schools’ student makeup also plays a role, which may have added to charter schools’ higher turnover rate. The more low-income students a school has, the higher its teacher turnover. Nationally, charter schools enroll more low-income students.