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Teacher Turnover in Organizational Context: Staffing Stability in Los Angeles Charter, Magnet, and Regular Public Schools

by Xiaoxia A. Newton, Rosario Rivero, Bruce Fuller & Luke Dauter - 2018

Background/Context: Studies that compare the achievement benefits of charter public schools versus traditional public schools (TPSs) yield quite uneven results. The quality and long-term commitment of teachers represent related mediators that may help to explain effective and ineffective charter schools. Early findings on the comparative rates of annual turnover—exiting from one’s school—appear to show higher turnover in charter schools relative to TPSs. But longitudinal data that allow scholars to track teachers over time remain rare. Little evidence exists on how organizational context may interact with individual teacher characteristics to further explain the propensity to leave one’s school.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Prior research on teacher turnover focused mostly on whether or not and who leaves. Our research builds on and extends prior studies by investigating not only whether and who but also when a teacher leaves. The phenomenon of our study emphasizes the dynamic nature of teacher exit; namely, we are interested in examining when teachers are at the greatest risk of exiting schools. This dynamic focus marks a departure from the typical teacher turnover analysis in which exit is conceptualized as a status (i.e., exit or not).

Population/Participants/Subjects: We used a large sample of elementary (4,788) and secondary teachers (8,467) panel data (from 2002–03 to 2008–09) from the LAUSD. A little over 80% of the teachers in the elementary sample were female, while 61% of the secondary teachers were female. About 40% of the elementary and 47% of the secondary teachers were white. The average years of teaching experience was about two for both elementary and secondary teachers. Special education teachers accounted for 12% of the elementary and 15% of the secondary study sample, respectively.

Research Design: We combined event history and multilevel modeling analysis in order to investigate when a teacher exits his or her first assigned school and how organizational membership conditions decision processes at the individual level.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The longitudinal and multilevel analysis of teacher turnover supports our theoretical position that organizational dynamics and contextual factors are likely to condition the decision process made at the individual level and thereby influence individual behaviors (i.e., decision to leave a school at certain point in time). This cross-level theoretical perspective adds further support to the argument that focusing on recruiting capable teachers and paying attention to working conditions for long-term staffing stability are aspects of schooling that matter most for student learning, as opposed to a horse-race game (i.e., choice and competition).

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 3, 2018, p. 1-36
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22074, Date Accessed: 8/3/2021 8:52:31 PM

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About the Author
  • Xiaoxia Newton
    University of Massachusetts, Lowell
    E-mail Author
    XIAOXIA NEWTON, Ph.D., is associate professor of research methods and evaluation in education at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Her work focuses on investigating how contextual factors shape teachers’ and students’ learning opportunities and outcomes, especially in the area of mathematics and STEM education. Her recent publication is titled Pre-service STEM Major’s Understanding of Slope According to Common Core Mathematics Standards.
  • Rosario Rivero
    University Diego Portales
    E-mail Author
    ROSARIO RIVERO is assistant professor of education at the University Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile. Her work centers on teacher training and teacher quality.
  • Bruce Fuller
    University of California at Berkeley
    BRUCE FULLER is professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His work centers on the social organization of schools and the decentralizing of large institutions across sectors of society. His recent book is Organizing Locally (University of Chicago Press).
  • Luke Dauter
    E-mail Author
    LUKE DAUTER is currently director of Data Science at GreatSchools, a national nonprofit organization that provides school information and resources for parents. His research foci include school quality, student achievement, organizations and institutional change, consumer behavior, and innovation.
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