Cover: Educator Turnover Has Markedly Increased, but Districts Have Taken Actions to Boost Teacher Ranks

Educator Turnover Has Markedly Increased, but Districts Have Taken Actions to Boost Teacher Ranks

Selected Findings from the Sixth American School District Panel Survey

Published Feb 16, 2023

by Melissa Kay Diliberti, Heather L. Schwartz

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Research Questions

  1. Did educator turnover increase nationally at the end of the 2021–2022 school year?
  2. Did districts continue to experience staff shortages during the 2022–2023 school year?

At least until spring 2022, the dismal teaching conditions induced by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic had not led to notably higher educator turnover. However, surveys of educators continue to show that many teachers and principals plan to push up their anticipated retirement date because of the pandemic, and morale among educators looks to be at an all-time low. The question remains whether educators' continued frustration and exhaustion will make them leave the profession. Evidence from superintendents suggests that at least some school leaders have decided to see the pandemic through before leaving, implying that resignations and retirements might begin to increase now that the pandemic is receding.

To obtain a national picture of teacher and principal turnover at the end of the 2021–2022 school year and districts' staffing shortages at the beginning of the 2022–2023 school year, researchers surveyed 300 district and charter network leaders in the American School District Panel from October to December 2022.

Key Findings

  • Teacher turnover increased 4 percentage points above prepandemic levels, reaching 10 percent nationally at the end of the 2021–2022 school year. Principal turnover increased too, reaching 16 percent nationally going into the 2022–2023 school year.
  • Teacher turnover in 2021–2022 was highest (around 12 to 14 percent) in urban districts, high-poverty districts, and districts serving predominately students of color. Meanwhile, principal turnover was highest (around 21 to 23 percent) in high-poverty districts and in rural districts.
  • District leaders generally perceived staffing shortages to be less acute in 2022–2023 than they were in 2021–2022. However, in fall 2022, staffing shortages continued to be most acute for substitute teachers, special education teachers, and bus drivers. High-poverty districts in particular had considerable shortages in several teaching categories.
  • Ninety percent of districts experienced one or more policy changes either they or their state enacted to boost teacher ranks in response to shortages. Chief among these changes were increased pay and/or benefits and the expansion of grow-your-own teacher preparation programs.

Recommendations

Give principals the same kind of policy attention as teachers

  • Researchers, philanthropies, professional associations of school principals, and the federal department of education should seek to understand how the school leader job is changing. These individuals and organizations should also develop policies to attract and retain high-quality principals. Both state-specific and national work is needed.

Stay focused on quality when boosting teacher pipelines

  • Although most districts or their states have enacted changes to boost the ranks of teachers, the overarching goal is to produce qualified teachers who want to remain in the profession, not just lower qualification requirements to boost applicants and fill positions.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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