Skip to:

Teacher Turnover In DCPS


According to, a strong majority of student attend charter schools in DC. Another source indicates 41% of schools are charter: Whether one or both are right, it's a high number of charters. With charters ability to fire/hire (and a steady supply of TFA recruits), it doesn't seem surprising then that turnover is so high.

a. The table shown above is at least to me, something to be expected. As a soon to be first year teacher myself, I think that new or young teachers might have a romantic notion of teaching in a higher poverty level school or school district. Hollywood has glamorized the skills it takes to work with students, faculty members and parents/guardians of those children living and working in high poverty areas. Some first year or newer teachers might not fully comprehend what it takes to be an exceptional teacher in this type of environment. So much is to be said to those teachers who are able to continue to teach and provide high quality education to those students who so desperately need it. b. I think another area of concern with the high volumes of teacher mobility is the lack of truly highly qualified teachers. Teachers should be highly qualified in the area they teach and should show through his or her teaching and evaluations that they can provide instruction that challenges and motivates their students. During my master’s level instruction, we are taught to scaffold instruction to best suit our learners specific and unique learning styles and comprehension levels. If newer teachers are unable to do this, this might lead to frustration, low evaluation scores, and perhaps even a move to a different school. Educating our children is no easy task, and perhaps the frustration that comes with the job might be too overwhelming for some first year or novice teachers.

I think Boston is about 17% turnover. Ronfelt et al in NYC found 18% turnover for Grades 4, 5. Idea for a phd candidate. Lots of talk of changing student discipline policies, driven by USDOE and others. Whether the change is "reforming mindless zero tolerance" or "allowing disruption with no real consequences" is in eye of beholder. But it'd be interesting to examine whether districts which go in this direction also raise or lower their teacher departure rate.

I saw an article on Yahoo! where a teacher was leaving because of the cheap healthcare she could get. Her idea was to start her own business. I am not sure how effective she was in her job, but it is sad that she was a teacher only for health insurance coverage.

What is interesting to note is that the percent of movers in medium poverty is higher than the percent of movers in high poverty. Also the percent of leavers in low poverty is higher than the percent of leavers in medium poverty. There doesn’t seem to be a direct link between poverty level and movers/leavers based on this data. If there were a direct link, I would expect the largest percentage of movers and leavers to be from high poverty schools while the lowest percentage would be from low poverty schools. I would be most interested to find out the percent of the leavers who were leaving not by choice. With teacher evaluation such an integral part of contract renewal, teachers who cannot manage the classroom might be more likely to score poorly. In many cases, the higher poverty schools are more difficult to manage. However, based on my experience, the biggest issue in teacher turnover is burnout. Teachers are inundated with so many responsibilities. When you add in the baggage that comes with students who are from high poverty, many teachers cannot take the pressure. As stated, it would also be interesting to determine where these movers and leavers are going. Do the burnt-out teachers go to “easier” charter schools or private schools with choice in students? Or do they decide that teaching is not for them and go into another field? Obviously there is a problem, but before the problem can be fixed, more information is needed.

Thanks for the hat tip, Matt. My colleague Elias Walsh did the analysis you excerpted. It's pretty interesting stuff and worth a read, although it's just an interim report in a series being done on DC school reform for the city on behalf of the National Research Council by DC Ed-CORE (Education Consortium for Research and Evaluation). Ed-CORE plans to wait for the final report, which will encompass several years together, to really publicize the results of this effort. These interim reports are public and can be found on the DC Auditor's website.

My read of that NCES report is that the variation in churn by school poverty - to the extent that FRPL eligibility works as a proxy for poverty - in DC actually *is* unusual. On pg. 8: 15.6% of teachers in schools with 75+% FRPL are movers/leavers, which is not very different from the 13.5% in the most affluent schools. (Churn rates are actually highest - by a bit - in schools in between those extremes.)

When I think of teacher turnover, I automatically think of teachers being burnt out. Teachers are being required to do so much extra work that it becomes completely overwhelming at times. However, I found it interesting to look at the data for teacher turnover based on the poverty rates. I found it interesting that more teachers left the schools with medium poverty rate versus the high poverty rate. Being at a school with a high poverty rate can be more stressful than some people can imagine. In my experience in teaching students living in poverty, I have felt that I needed to be an even better teacher for them because getting a good education may be their only way out of poverty. You want to give those students more than your best effort. With that added stress and the behaviors that most schools in high poverty have, I can understand why teachers may not be cut out for the job or choose to move to a school with a lower poverty rate. I think that in order for them to get a better understanding of how to solve the turnover problem, they need to collect more data. Why are teachers leaving? Where do they go when they leave? Do they retire or go into another profession? If they transfer to another school, what type of school do they transfer to? These are some questions that I think the answers would be beneficial to finding answers to the teacher turnover rate.

Hey Matt D. It's your old buddy Eric Sternberg. I am a teacher now living in New Jersey. How goes it?


This web site and the information contained herein are provided as a service to those who are interested in the work of the Albert Shanker Institute (ASI). ASI makes no warranties, either express or implied, concerning the information contained on or linked from The visitor uses the information provided herein at his/her own risk. ASI, its officers, board members, agents, and employees specifically disclaim any and all liability from damages which may result from the utilization of the information provided herein. The content in the Shanker Blog may not necessarily reflect the views or official policy positions of ASI or any related entity or organization.