What's the Cost of Teacher Turnover?

High teacher turnover—or churn—undermines student achievement and consumes valuable staff time and resources. It also contributes to teacher shortages throughout the country, as roughly 6 of 10 new teachers hired each year are replacing colleagues who left the classroom before retirement. Research shows that urban districts can, on average, spend more than $20,000 on each new hire, including school and district expenses related to separation, recruitment, hiring, and training. These investments don’t pay their full dividend when teachers leave within 1 or 2 years after being hired. Turnover rates vary by school and district, with those in rural and urban settings or that serve high percentages of student in poverty experiencing the highest rates. Use this tool to estimate the cost of teacher turnover in your school or district and to inform a local conversation about how to attract, support, and retain a high-quality teacher workforce. High-leverage strategies are highlighted below.


teacher svg icon

The Teacher Shortage

To give every child a quality education, we need a quality teacher in every classroom. But severe teacher shortages in communities across the country deprive many children of the opportunities they need to prepare for college, a career, and civic participation.

In 2017, more than 100,000 teaching positions were filled by teachers with inadequate training. Because they are underprepared for the challenges of the classroom, these teachers are less effective and more likely to leave the profession. At the same time, uncompetitive compensation, high student debt, and poor teaching conditions can drive out even talented and well-prepared teachers.

For students in schools with teacher shortages or constant turnover, that means underprepared teachers, a parade of substitutes, overcrowded classrooms, cancelled courses, and fewer chances to build strong relationships with their teachers. These students have more difficulty mastering subjects and skills critical to their success in tomorrow’s economy and our shared democracy.

The teacher shortage is worst in the schools and districts with low salaries, poor teaching conditions, and inadequate training and support for new teachers. It is also greater in crucial fields, including math, science, bilingual education, and special education. Thankfully, research and experience show that thoughtful policies can help solve these problems.

Policymakers and administrators at the state and district levels can take smart action based on strong evidence to recruit, train and retain committed, skilled, and diverse teachers.

  • Service scholarships and student loan forgiveness can reduce the cost of higher education for new teachers who commit to teaching for a number of years in the subjects and locations with the most severe shortage.

  • Effective training and support can equip new teachers with the best strategies to educate their students and dramatically increase their chances of staying in the profession. Residency programs—in which aspiring teachers work alongside expert educators in high-need school districts while earning teaching credentials—can attract diverse, promising teachers and prepare them for success in the schools that need them most.

  • Principals play a key role in teachers’ work environments and job satisfaction. Recruiting, preparing, and training supportive school leaders who involve teachers in decisions and foster a culture of collaboration creates improved teaching conditions that allow teachers to better serve their students.

  • Competitive compensation—including salaries, benefits such as support for housing or child care, and repayment of student loans—allows teachers to build good lives in the communities they serve and focus on their students, not on working second jobs.

From California to South Dakota, policymakers across the country are taking action to successfully address the shortage. This includes strengthening compensation, creative residency programs, providing scholarships or loan forgiveness for teacher education, and supporting them once they are hired. To prepare all of our students for success tomorrow, we need more quality teachers today.

Find Out How to Talk About the Teacher Shortage
wrench svg icon

How to Solve It

resources svg icon

Find Resources

In addition to cutting-edge research and policy recommendations developed by the Learning Policy Institute, you can find communications tools—such as talking points and Q&A's—that equip you to promote evidence-based solutions to the teacher shortage.

Find Resources

Haven't registered yet?