The cost of high teacher turnover

Dec 4, 2012

Credit StreetFlyJZ / flickr

Yesterday Dustin Dwyer highlighted great reporting by Lindsey Smith on teacher turnover in Muskegon Heights. As Smith reports, students in that already flailing district have yet another educational obstacle. The education system there can't keep teachers from throwing in the towel.

The effect of teacher turnover on student learning is well-documented (unsurprisingly it makes learning more difficult). But I was wondering if a study had been done to find out how much teacher turnover costs districts.

And the answer is, "Of course there's a study on that!"

There are lots of studies actually. But I think this report by The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future is a good place to start. It's a little old, but it uses real district level data and it's easy to understand. According to the report, at the very least it costs around $5,000 to replace a teacher. In larger districts, like Chicago, it can cost over $17,000 each time a teacher leaves.

In struggling districts, every dollar counts. Not stemming the tide of teacher turnover wastes precious resources desperately needed to help kids learn and succeed after they leave school.

This report places the burden of keeping teachers at the district's doorstep. At the most basic level districts should understand how much teacher turnover is costing them. The report says very few districts actually understand or track this cost.

The authors of the report developed a handy calculator for teacher turnover costs. Districts or members of the public can use it to estimate costs at their local schools.

Then of course comes the hard part, putting a plan in place to hire and support good teachers and keep them. It's possible that if more districts saw developing these plans as a key to potential cost savings, they might move up the priority list.