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.

Talking About the Teacher Shortage
The ​following narrative​ explain​s the teacher shortage​ in language crafted to build maximum support for evidence-based solutions. ​Hover over highlighted words and phrases to read insights into what makes the language work and tips for applying it to your own communications.

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, canceled 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.

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.

Messages about Policy Solutions
The following messages provide concise, compelling language that you can use to explain the kinds of evidence-based policies that policymakers should pursue in response to the teacher shortage.

Service Scholarships & Student Loan Forgiveness

Smart, caring people who would make great teachers avoid the profession due to the high cost of college and low salaries—and those who do pursue a career in the classroom begin with an average debt of $20,000 for a bachelor’s degree and $50,000 for a master’s. Some begin teaching before receiving adequate education and training because they cannot afford to go without pay.

Service scholarships and loan forgiveness programs help aspiring teachers cover the cost of education when they commit to teaching in schools or subjects with the highest need. These measures go a long way toward making teaching a financially viable career choice. Research shows that service scholarships and loan forgiveness effectively attract and keep quality, diverse teachers in the schools that need them most.

Effective Training & Support For New Teachers

Effective training and support for new teachers makes them more likely to stay in their jobs—and helps their students improve measurably in critical areas such as math and reading. Despite the proven benefits, a growing number of teachers are entering classrooms without any preparation beyond earning a college degree and receiving little or no support after they arrive.

Policymakers can fund teacher residencies, along with other mentorship and training programs shown by research to both accelerate students’ learning and keep teachers in the profession. Residencies allow teacher candidates to work alongside an expert educator for a year, earning both an income and credentials if they commit to teaching in the district after their residency. These programs are smart, long-term investments. New teachers who complete residencies are more prepared to succeed when they take charge of a classroom, while districts develop quality educators committed to teaching in schools with the most severe shortages.

Teaching Conditions & Supportive Leadership

Teaching conditions for educators are learning conditions for students. Teachers say that several key factors allow them to do their jobs well and keep them returning to the classroom every year: working on a team with a shared purpose, feeling supported by administrators, and having input into decisions that affect their work.

Principals play a key role in teachers’ work environments and job satisfaction. To ensure school leaders are equipped to create positive teaching environments, policymakers can invest in the recruitment, preparation, and training of high-quality, supportive school leaders who involve teachers in decisions and foster a culture of collaboration.

Competitive Compensation

Low salaries combined with rising costs of living leave many teachers unable to build good lives for their families and deter passionate students from becoming educators. Teachers who work in districts with lower wages are also more likely to leave, which measurably harms students’ academic achievement. Every year, taxpayers spend roughly $8.5 billion to replace them.

Low-income communities can least afford to pay competitive salaries, meaning students in those communities are often taught by poorly prepared teachers who frequently leave. To recruit and retain diverse, quality teachers—especially in lower-income districts—policymakers can fund increases in salaries and work to equalize them across districts. They can also offer other forms of compensation, such as housing benefits, that allow teachers to live in the communities they serve.