Hire Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Determinants of Attrition among Public School Teachers
Increases in the school-age population, maximum class size requirements in various states and the No Child Left Behind Act’s mandate of a “highly qualified teacher” in every classroom collectively will increase the demand for teachers. However, public school teachers are exiting the profession in large numbers. This poses a serious challenge for policymakers. In this paper I analyze the determinants of teacher attrition using matched teacher-student class-level information for all Florida public school teachers. In addition to teacher demographics and school characteristics employed in previous studies, I include a number of variables measuring the characteristics of the specific students assigned to each teacher. The results indicate that classroom characteristics, such as students’ performance on standardized tests and the average number of disciplinary incidents, play a larger role than school average student characteristics in determining teacher attrition. Teacher pay has a positive influence on retention, while the results for class size are mixed. There is also some evidence that more able teachers are more likely to exit the teaching profession. These findings suggest that in addition to salary, classroom assignment is an important factor when considering policies to promote teacher retention and teacher quality.
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