This new paper adds another frigate to Richard Ingersoll’s flotilla of research papers on teacher turnover. Co-authored with Henry May, it spotlights the reasons why “qualified” math and science teachers—meaning those with a math or science degree—move to a new school or leave the profession. The authors analyzed data from the 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and the 2004-05 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), unearthing some interesting findings. Contrary to popular wisdom, STEM teachers do not exit the profession at significantly higher rates than do educators of other subjects, nor do they seek non-education jobs at higher rates. Rather, they opt to remain within the education sector but in non-teaching roles, such as administration. That’s the good news. (Interesting sidebar: Though salary increases reduce turnover for science teachers, they have little effect on math-teacher attrition.) The bad news is that Ingersoll and May found higher attrition rates at high-poverty schools and those in urban areas because of their “organizational characteristics” (such as salary structure and teacher/faculty influence over school policies like student-performance standards, curriculum, and school-discipline policy). If policymakers want to get serious about keeping their math and science teachers around, fixing these organizational issues would seem to be the place to start.
SOURCE: Richard M. Ingersoll and Henry May, “The Magnitude, Destinations, and Determinants of Mathematics and Science Teacher Turnover.” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis 34, no. 4 (2012): 435-464.