Retaining Teachers

The supply and demand for public schoolteachers in the United States varies each school year. For the 2010-11 school year, there are 3.7 million full time equivalent public and private schoolteachers. Johnson, Berg, and Donaldson (2005) noted over 450,000 teachers left the classroom in 2000. By 2003, the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2008) stated over 621,000 teachers left the classroom.

This turnover of staff leads to challenges for administrators in filling classroom positions with highly qualified teachers. While the aggregate data above suggest a global challenge, there are hard to staff schools located in rural and non-rural areas. Additionally, positions for teachers of particular subjects in secondary schools (math and science) have a higher turnover rate.

Ingersoll (1999, 2001, 2002a) proposed the schoolteacher hiring and quitting cycle is a revolving door. Ingersoll (2001) analyzed national data and concluded the teacher shortages in public schools is not because of teacher retirement but a revolving door in which almost half the new teachers are leaving schools within five years. Reed, Rueben, and Barbour (2006) suggested shortages of well-prepared teachers in public schools in California exist because 22% of new teachers leave the organization within five years. Once more, 28% of the teachers who left the classroom self-report they would return if school conditions improved (Futernick, 2007). The turnover is the cause of teacher shortages rather than the lack of recruitment of new teachers. Therefore, retaining teachers is the key to keeping highly qualified teachers in the classroom.

Retaining teachers is an historical challenge with teacher shortages, retention, and mobility in the U.S. public schools described in the literature for centuries. Elsbree (1939) noticed the short tenure of early schoolmasters of the American colonies, including the migration of the schoolmasters. From 1644 until 1757, Massachusetts colonial teachers remained in an area for approximately 1 year and 10 months (p. 81). In 1824, Carter described the tentative nature of Massachusetts teachers’ employment as “constantly changing their employment” (Knight, 1951, p. 404). Hirsch (1967) studied the supply and demand of classroom teachers in California and concluded economic reasons influenced the number of teachers.