by David Stuit and Thomas M. Smith | National Center for School Choice/Vanderbilt Peabody College
JUNE 2010 - The rapid growth in charter schools during the past two decades has occurred despite inconclusive evidence that they are academically superior to their traditional public school counterparts.
The discrepant findings from five rigorous studies released in the last six years underscore this point:
one study found positive effects (Solomon & Goldschmidt, 2004);
three found mixed effects (Booker, Gilpatric, Gronberg, & Jansen, 2004; Hanushek, Kain, Rivkin, & Branch, 2005; Sass, 2006);
and one found negative effects (Bifulco & Ladd, 2006).
The current study aimed to contribute to a deeper understanding of the organizational conditions of charter schools by examining teacher turnover. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2003–04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS)1 and the Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS),2 researchers from the National Center on School Choice looked at how teacher turnover differs between charter and traditional public schools and the extent to which these differences are explained by variations in teacher characteristics, school organizational conditions, and contextual factors such as demographic characteristics.
In addition, the study examined how turnover varies within the charter school sector.
Central questions of the study were:
How does the rate of teacher turnover differ between charter schools and traditional public schools?
How do teacher turnover rates vary within the charter school universe, and which types of charter schools have higher/lower turnover rates?
To what extent are the differences in turnover rates between charter schools and traditional public schools explained by differences in teacher characteristics?
To what extent are the differences in turnover rates between charter schools and traditional public schools explained by differences in organizational conditions and contextual factors?
What reasons do charter school teachers give for leaving the profession or moving between schools, and how do these reasons differ from those given by traditional public school teachers?
The study ultimately was interested in the relationship between school sector (charter school and traditional public school) and teacher turnover (attrition and mobility). Researchers hypothesized that the difference in turnover between sectors (“the turnover gap”) was due partly to systematic differences in the characteristics of charter and traditional public school teachers. They also hypothesized that the turnover gap was due partly to differences in the organizational conditions of charter schools and traditional public schools, which may stem from charter schools’ autonomy from many of the rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools. In addition, they expected turnover to be affected by the context of the school.
Research Brief: TEACHER TURNOVER IN CHARTER SCHOOLS by David Stuit and Thomas M. Smith | National Center for School Choice...
Charter school teachers leave the profession and move between schools at significantly higher rates than teachers in traditional public schools.
- The odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession versus staying in the same school were 130 percent greater than those of a traditional public school teacher.
- Similarly, the odds of a charter school teacher moving to another school were 76 percent greater.
Charter schools that are started from the ground up experience significantly more attrition and mobility than those that are converted from traditional public schools.
- Teachers at start-up charter schools were almost twice as likely to leave the profession and almost three times as likely to switch schools as teachers at conversion charters. This finding aligns with Buddin and Zimmer’s (2005) conclusion that conversion charter schools behave more like traditional public schools than start-up charter schools.
- EMO-managed charter schools did not have significantly different turnover rates than their non-EMO counterparts.
- There also was not a significant difference in teacher turnover between new charter schools and those that have operated for more than three years.
Differences in teacher characteristics explain a large portion of the gap in turnover rates among charter and traditional public school teachers.
- Charter school teachers were on average younger than traditional public school teachers, which makes them more likely to leave the profession or change schools.
- In addition, charter school teachers were more likely to be part time and less likely to have an education degree or state certification of any type.
- The odds of an uncertified teacher leaving the profession were 200 percent greater than those of certified teachers, and part-time teachers were found to be twice as likely to leave teaching as their full-time