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“As we work to improve teaching and learning in every school and classroom, we recognize from data we have collected that our highest-poverty school districts face special challenges in recruiting and retaining excellent educators. The Rhode Island Equity Plan aims to take on this issue directly by improving data collection on teacher quality, developing statewide strategies for sharing best practices, and providing targeted support for teachers working in our highest-poverty schools.” - Education Commissioner Ken Wagner

True or False? Busting Myths about Teacher Mobility

Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 6/16/2017
Lauren Matlach
Education Specialist

The media often portrays the education profession as being in a state of crisis, with half of all new teachers leaving the profession within five years.  Is this the case in Rhode Island?

RIDE recently worked with the Regional Education Laboratory Northeast & Islands (REL-NEI) to analyze the mobility patterns of early career teachers.  In this study, we tracked all teachers who had 0-2 prior years of teaching experience in Rhode Island public schools in 2011-12 through 2015-16.  From this information, we determined the extent to which teachers stayed in their current schools, moved to another school, transitioned to another role, or left Rhode Island public schools altogether.  Below, we evaluate statements we commonly hear and share whether they are true or false based on our recent analysis.

1. More than half of early-career teachers leave Rhode Island within five years.

False.  Seventy-seven percent of the 2011-12 early career teachers were still teaching in Rhode Island public schools in 2015-16.  Another 1 percent of early career teachers continued working in Rhode Island public schools but in a different role (i.e. as a support professional or administrator).  While there certainly is additional work that Rhode Island can do to support and retain early career teachers, the data do not support claims that half of new teachers leave within five years.

2. Early career teacher mobility is higher in high poverty schools.

False.  The analysis found that early career teachers tended to move, stay, change roles, or leave Rhode Island public schools at similar rates across school poverty levels. 

3. Early career teachers in high minority schools leave teaching in Rhode Island or change roles at higher rates than teachers in moderate or low minority schools.

True.  The REL-NEI analysis found that 29 percent of teachers working in a high minority school left teaching in Rhode Island compared to approximately 20 percent of teachers working in moderate or low minority schools.  Additional efforts are needed to understand why early career teachers working in high minority schools left teaching between 2011-12 and 2015-16 at higher rates than early career teachers in low and moderate minority schools. 

4. Middle school early career teachers have the highest mobility rates.

False.  During equity plan stakeholder sessions, we often heard that people thought middle school teachers moved schools at higher rates.  However, the data do not support this claim.  In fact, elementary early-career teachers had the highest mobility rate (36 percent) compared to 30 percent at the middle school level and 22 percent at the high school level.  High school teachers had the highest rate of leaving Rhode Island public schools (25 percent). 

5. Early career teachers identifying as non-white tend to leave Rhode Island public schools at higher rates than white teachers. 

False.  Teachers tended to move, stay, change roles, or leave at similar rates regardless of their minority status or age.

6. Male early career teachers tend to stay at their original schools compared to female early career teachers.

True.  The analysis found that 60 percent of male early career teachers stayed in their original schools from 2011-12 to 2015-16 compared to 51 percent of female teachers.

Based on the information above, what was most surprising? 

Thanks to this analysis, Rhode Islanders now have some additional information about teacher mobility in the state.  However, there are important limitations to this analysis.  Although the sample size is substantial (1,256 teachers), the analysis icnludes only one cohort of teachers.  It is possible that mobility patterns in future cohorts might vary.  We also know that 20 schools closed or reorganized between 2011-12 and 2016, which may have slightly inflated mobility numbers for this cohort. 

Another limitation is that an early career teacher’s status is based solely on years of experience teaching in Rhode Island public schools; as a result, some teachers classified as early career teachers in the analysis may have prior experience teaching in private schools or in a different state.  To address this issue, RIDE is changing its Personnel Assignment System so that future analyses will be able to account for a teacher’s previous experience working in other states. 

Most important, the descriptive analysis conducted with REL-NEI does not get at an important question: Why? 

In the coming months, RIDE will be working with REL-NEI to conduct additional analyses that look at the relationship between educator preparation program experiences and subsequent educator evaluation ratings and mobility patterns.  RIDE will work to understand better why these mobility patterns exist. 

We also want to hear from you!  Why do you think female early career teachers change schools more frequently than males?  Why do you think teachers working in minority schools tend to leave the profession at higher rates than their counterparts in schools with lower minority rates?  Were these findings surprising to you?  Let us know @RIDeptEd and @lkbivona.

Have questions about the study or interested in learning more?  If so, please e-mail Lauren Matlach at lauren.matlach@ride.ri.gov.

 

 

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