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Middle School Teacher Turnover

About Teacher Turnover

Some amount of teacher turnover is generally thought to be constructive, as it brings new ideas, energy, and skills to schools. However, research suggests that too much turnover may have serious instructional, financial, and organizational costs. These costs may be particularly acute in urban schools—which struggle to attract and retain talented teachers—and in middle schools, where teachers must meld pedagogical skills with knowledge of adolescents’ developmental needs.

About Our Study

Despite the important consequences of teacher turnover, there have been few studies of the rates and patterns of teacher turnover in NYC.

To address this gap, the Research Alliance conducted a three-year, mixed-methods study of teacher turnover, including detailed analyses of administrative data about the City’s teacher workforce, an original survey of teachers conducted in roughly 125 middle schools, and case studies in four middle schools that serve high-need student populations.

Using these data, we identified broad patterns of turnover during the past decade, examined the relationship between turnover and teachers’ perceptions of their work and schools, and explored the causes and consequences of turnover. Our final report, Who Stays and Who Leaves?, summarizes findings from the project and suggests directions for school and district leaders who are seeking to reduce turnover, particularly in the City’s middle schools.


Supported by the Ford Foundation.

Related Publications

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools

The Middle School Teacher Turnover Project

This report presents findings from the first of three components of a mixed-methods study of middle school teacher turnover in New York City. Our findings suggest an exodus of newly-arrived teachers from middle schools, and they raise questions for future research about the causes, consequences, and implications of teacher turnover. The remaining two components of the Research Alliance’s larger study – a survey and a case study analysis – will investigate these and other questions. (2011)

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Thoughts of Leaving

This report explores the conditions under which middle-school teachers in New York City leave their schools, and the consequences of this turnover. The focus on middle schools stems from the widely-held view that the middle grades are a critical turning point in the lives of children, and that many New York City schoolchildren lose academic momentum in these grades, setting them on trajectories of failure as they move towards high school and life beyond it. (2012)

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Who Stays and Who Leaves?

This paper synthesizes findings from the Research Alliance’s investigation of teacher turnover in New York City’s public middle schools. These years are widely recognized as a critical turning point for students, and the NYC Department of Education (DOE) is pursuing a range of middle school improvement initiatives. The stability of the middle school teaching force has the potential to facilitate or complicate these efforts, yet there have been few studies of the rates and patterns of teacher turnover in the City’s middle schools. (2013)