About 100 Chicago schools suffer from chronically high rates of teacher turnover, losing a quarter or moreof their teaching staff every year, and many of these schools serve predominantly low-income AfricanAmerican children, according to a study released Monday by the Consortium on Chicago School Researchat the University of Chicago.
In the typical Chicago elementary school, 51 percent of the teachers working in 2002 had left four yearslater, by 2006, while the typical high school had seen 54 percent leave. These findings surface at a timewhen many principals are scrambling to find qualified teachers for hard-to-staff schools.
This study, The Schools Teachers Leave: Teacher Mobility in Chicago Public Schools , reflects theConsortium's commitment to study education issues that are top priorities in Chicago and districtsnationwide. It was funded by the Joyce Foundation, which works to close the achievement gap byimproving the quality of teachers in schools that serve low-income and minority children.
While some teacher mobility is normal and expected, high turnover rates can produce a range oforganizational problems at schools, such as discontinuity in professional development, shortages in keysubjects, and loss of teacher leadership. Previous research also indicates that schools with high turnover aremore likely to have inexperienced, ineffective teachers.
"This is particularly troubling because the vast majority of schools with chronically low stability strugglewith very low levels of student achievement," wrote Elaine Allensworth, an interim executive director at theConsortium and the study's lead author. "These schools desperately need to show improvements in teachingand student learning, but year after year they struggle to hold on to teachers."
This report examined the factors associated with high mobility rates, including teachers' backgroundcharacteristics, school structure, students' characteristics, and workplace conditions. The data includespersonnel records from about 35,000 teachers in 538 elementary schools and 118 high schools from 2002-03to 2006-07. It also reflects teacher and student survey responses, student achievement data, schooldemographics, crime statistics and block-level census data. The Consortium does not have access topersonnel records of teachers in charter schools, so these schools and teachers are not included in the study.
The key findings include:
While the average CPS school does not lose many more teachers each year than the typical school inIllinois or across the nation, these losses add up over time and create obstacles for sustaining newinitiatives and staff training, the study reveals. Moreover, the vast differences in teacher mobility acrossschools perpetuate inequities in hard-to-staff schools. High turnover forces principals to constantlydevote vast amounts of time and energy for recruiting, hiring and mentoring staff - and this divertsattention from other vital school improvements.
"Many schools are likely stuck in a cycle of teacher loss that is hard to break - teachers leave because ofpoor school climate and low achievement, but these are hard to improve when there is a constantturnover of teachers each year," the authors wrote.
Founded in 1990, the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago conductsresearch of high technical quality that influences policy and practice in Chicago and nationwide.