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Recent Trends in the Characteristics of New Teachers, the Schools in Which They Teach, and Their Turnover Rates

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We draw on nationally representative data from all seven waves of the Schools and Staffing Survey from the 1987-1988 to 2011-2012 school years to better understand the extent to which the characteristics of beginning teachers, the schools in which they teach, and their turnover rates have changed over time. This study consists of a descriptive and regression analysis. In the descriptive analysis, we find that recent cohorts of beginning teachers are more likely to have a graduate degree, have graduated from a selective college, and be certified than in previous years, suggesting improvements in the qualifications and academic ability of new teachers. These improvements have been most concentrated after the 1999-2000 school year. Although our research design precludes us from identifying the cause of these changes, they correspond with the expansion of alternative certification programs and the state-level implementation of No Child Left Behind’s Highly Qualified Teacher clause.

Decreases in uncertified teachers were equally dispersed across schools. Yet, we find no evidence that overall increases in the selectivity of a teachers’ baccalaureate institution being linked to shrinking gaps between high-poverty and low-poverty schools or high-minority and low-minority schools. At the same time, compared to more experienced teachers, new teachers have also become increasingly likely to work in a school enrolling a majority of economically disadvantaged and minority students. This trend is concerning given evidence of beginning teachers’ lower levels of effectiveness and higher levels of turnover (Goldhaber et al., 2015; Steele, Pepper, Springer, & Lockwood, 2015).

When examining new teacher turnover, we find that, on average, 25.53% of new teachers turned over each year compared to 14.08% of more experienced teachers. When conditioning on teacher and school characteristics and a state and year fixed effect in regression analysis, we find that an “average” new teacher has a predicted rate of moving schools or leaving teaching that is roughly 2 percentage points greater than a more experienced teacher. Yet, new teachers are no more likely to turn over from high minority or high FRPL schools than more experienced teachers.

Over the period of this study, districts expanded the induction supports for new teachers. The most notable shift is the increased assignment to a mentor. In 1994, 57% of new teachers reported working with a mentor their first year. By 2008, 84% of new teachers said they worked with a mentor before decreasing to 74% in 2012. Participation in an induction program increased from 67% in 2000 to 83% in 2012. While participation in an induction is associated with a reduced risk of turnover, we find no evidence that assignment to a mentor is associated with reduced odds of turnover. Most beneficial in reducing turnover are positive working conditions, including administrative support and teacher cooperation.


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