Widespread critical shortages of high-quality teachers in the United States (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, Carver-Thomas, 2016) has prompted considerable research on staffing trends within the teaching profession. Research suggests both an increase in the demand for teachers and a "chronic and relatively high annual turnover compared with many other occupations" (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003, p. 31). Recent studies have highlighted the negative effects that high teacher turnover has on financial costs, school climate, and student performance. Since attrition rates appear to be higher for beginning teachers (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003; Ingersoll, 2012), it is important to understand why beginning teacher attrition occurs and what factors influence beginning teachers to stay in the profession, move to another school, or return to the profession. While several studies suggest multiple factors influence teacher attrition, having a better understanding of how these factors correlate with each other and how the impact of these factors changes over time will provide additional information into how time influences teacher attrition. Exploring where teaching go after they leave teaching and why some teachers decide to return to the profession will provide additional insight into the complex nature of teacher attrition patterns in the United States. The purpose of this study was to examine attrition patterns among K-12 teachers who began teaching in a public school in the United States during the 2007-2008 academic year and factors that influenced teachers decisions to move from their initial school to another school, discontinue teaching, or return to the position of a K-12 teacher. This study used data collected as part of the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS) and explores the effect that various predictor variables have on the probability that BTLS teachers will either leave teaching or move to another school. Using a structural equation modeling (SEM) approach to discrete-time survival analysis made it possible to simultaneously model systems of equations that included both latent and observed variables, allow for the effect of mediators, and analyze how the effect of each predictor variable changed over time. Results suggest the higher the teachers' base salary during their first three years of teaching, the less likely they were to leave the profession during their second through fourth years of teaching. Teachers who supplement their base salaries by working extra jobs are more likely to leave the profession after their fourth year of teaching. Teachers who participated in an induction program during their first year of teaching were less likely to leave the profession in Wave 2 of the study and teachers who had taken more courses on teaching methods and strategies before they started teaching were less likely to leave teaching in all waves of the study than teachers who had taken fewer courses on teaching methods or strategies. Teachers who reported higher levels of positive school climate during their first year of teaching were less likely to leave the profession in Wave 2 and 4. Teachers who indicated higher levels of satisfaction with being a teacher in their school were less likely to move schools than teachers with lower levels of satisfaction and teachers who taught in schools with higher percentages of students who were approved for free or reduced prices lunches were more likely to move schools than teachers with lower percentages of students who were approved for free or reduced price lunches. However, due to convergence issues, these results should be interpreted with caution. Weighted item response descriptive analyses suggest teachers' most important reason for moving schools was to work in a school more convenient to their home. Teachers who leave teaching are more likely to enter professions or occupations in education-related fields than occupations outside the field of education. Results also suggest teachers who leave the profession of teaching are more likely to be working in a job, either full-time or part-time, than not working in job. Finally, the majority of teachers who return to the profession of teaching do so because they missed being a K-12 teacher or they want to make a difference in the lives of others. This study contributes to the existing literature on teacher attrition by testing whether multiple relationships exist between various predictor variables and beginning teacher attrition and examines how the influence of each of these predictor variables changes over time. The study also investigates topics that have been relatively unexplored in the literature, including where teachers go when they leave the profession and factors that influence teachers' decisions to return to the profession. The results of this study may benefit researchers, teachers, educators, administrators, and policy makers interested in and/or studying teacher attrition in the United States.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation



Date Submitted


Document Type





teacher persistence, survival analysis, Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study



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Education Commons