- A University of Arkansas study on Georgia educators examined the impact of eliminating high-stakes testing on teacher retention and teacher distribution across grade levels and schools. It found that eliminating high-stakes testing has little to no impact on the likelihood an educator would leave teaching, change schools within a district, or move between districts.
- But eliminating high-stakes testing did slightly increase the retention of early-career teachers. The average probability of exit for teachers with 0-4 years of experience fell from 14 to 13 percentage points in 1st and 2nd grade and from 14 to 11 percentage points in 6th and 7th grade.
- Eliminating high-stakes testing also slightly lowered the probability of 1st and 2nd grade teachers changing grades within the same school.
The report notes teacher turnover has consequences for student achievement and poses an expensive financial burden for schools.
Indeed, districts around the country struggle to retain teachers, and the problem is getting worse. In the 2011-12 school year, 3.1% of schools reported they could not fill a vacancy. By 2015-16, that number climbed to 9.4%.
Once a district secures a teacher, however, retaining them becomes another concern. In a 2018 Gallup poll, 61% of superintendents said teacher retention is their greatest struggle. In 2017-18, almost every state had teacher shortages, and nearly 50% of teachers were looking for different jobs.
Providing teachers with career advancement opportunities or development may prevent the losses. Creating a clear ladder for growth gives teachers something to which they can aspire, which may in turn inspire them to stay. Teaching can be leveled, from pre-service preparation to accomplished, and then on to leadership roles among other teachers.
In Queens, the New York City Department of Education received a five-year, $53 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant to create the Teacher Career Pathways program in conjunction with the United Federation of Teachers (UTF). More than 1,300 educators in 600 schools are participating in the program,and though there is no research on student achievement, the program is improving teacher retention. In addition, 70% of principals who responded to a survey say the program helps them attract teachers, and 81% said it helped retain the most effective teachers.
A program in Chicago, called Chicago Opportunity School, also increased one-year teacher retention rates to 67%. The program recruits early-career teachers to work in high-needs schools and partners them with veteran educators who serve as mentors, providing monthly coaching and professional development. Two-thirds of those participating are teaching high-demand subjects like special education, and more than half are teachers of color.