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External Contextual Factors and Teacher Turnover: The Case of Michigan High Schools

by Elizabeth Covay Minor, Guan K. Saw, Kenneth A. Frank, Barbara Schneider & Kaitlin T. Torphy - 2019

Background/Context: All organizations face turnover in their workforce; however, in schools high turnover can interfere with the effectiveness and efficiency of the school. While past research has examined school-related factors linked to teacher turnover, few studies have examined how external contextual factors are related to teacher turnover. This study examines the role of two external contextual factors in teacher turnover: economic downturns and changes in state curricular policy (the Michigan Merit Curriculum [MMC]).

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study asks the extent to which the economic crisis of 2009 and the implementation of the MMC are related to school-level teacher turnover rates and whether those relationships vary by school locale and within the school year.

Population/Participants/Subjects: The data include full-time high school teachers in the state of Michigan aggregated to the school level.

Research Design: Using eight years of statewide longitudinal data from Michigan, the study employs school fixed effects models to account for possible differences in unobservable school characteristics that are constant over time and may be related to teacher turnover. The study examines teacher turnover at both the mid-year and the end of the year as teachers leave schools at various points during the school year. Additionally, this study considers how turnover is experience differentially by urbanicity.

Findings/Results: Between 3.2% and 15.5% of teachers left their school over the eight-year period. The rates of turnover varied by the time of the school year with more teachers leaving at the end of the year than during mid-year. There was a significant increase in teacher turnover rates around the announcement of the MMC as well as the economic downturn. While all locations were impacted by the announcement of the MMC, the largest amount of turnover occurred in urban areas and the lowest for suburban areas. In terms of the economic downturn, towns were impacted the most, followed by rural and suburban schools. Urban areas did not see a significant increase in teacher turnover related to the recession.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors conclude that external contextual factors are related to increases in teacher turnover independent of each other. How these factors relate to teacher turnover does depend on school locale. While this study was based in Michigan, all states have their own policy and economic pressures to consider in related to school-level decision making and teacher turnover.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 11, 2019, p. 1-30
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22816, Date Accessed: 7/24/2021 9:43:40 AM

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About the Author
  • Elizabeth Minor
    National Louis University
    E-mail Author
    ELIZABETH COVAY MINOR is an associate professor at National Louis University in the Educational Leadership Program. Her research interests focus on educational leadership as well as inequality in student opportunities to learn and how social context is related to differences in access to, returns to, and experiences within student opportunities to learn. She recently published “Developing Effective Leaders Requires Valid, High Quality Psychometrically Sound, and Reliable Tools: A Test-Retest Analysis of The Vanderbilt Assessment for Leadership in Education” in Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Accountability with co-authors Andrew C. Porter, Joseph Murphy, Ellen Goldring, and Stephen N. Elliott.
  • Guan Saw
    University of Texas at San Antonio
    E-mail Author
    GUAN K. SAW is an assistant professor at the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His research focuses on educational inequality, STEM education, and college access and success. Recent publications include: Saw, G. K., Chang, C.-N., & Chan, H.-Y. (2018). Cross-sectional and longitudinal disparities in STEM career aspirations at the intersection of gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Educational Researcher; and Saw, G. K. (2018). Remedial enrollment during first year of college, institutional transfer, and degree attainment. Journal of Higher Education.
  • Kenneth Frank
    Michigan State University
    KENNETH FRANK received his Ph.D. in measurement, evaluation and statistical analysis from the School of Education at the University of Chicago in 1993. He is MSU Foundation professor of Sociometrics, professor in Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education; and adjunct (by courtesy) in Sociology at Michigan State University. His substantive interests include the study of schools as organizations, social structures of students and teachers and school decision-making, and social capital. His substantive areas are linked to several methodological interests: social network analysis, causal inference and multi-level models. His publications include quantitative methods for representing relations among actors in a social network, robustness indices for sensitivity analysis for causal inferences, and the effects of social capital in schools and other social contexts. Dr. Frank’s current projects include how beginning teachers’ networks affect their response to the Common Core, how schools respond to increases in core curricular requirements, cognitive linkages among aspects of knowledge, the diffusion of knowledge about climate change, and how the decisions about natural resource use in small communities are embedded in social contexts.
  • Barbara Schneider
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    BARBARA SCHNEIDER uses a sociological lens to examine interactions and social structures and how they impact educational inequality. She is the John A. Hannah University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at Michigan State University—Her most recent publications include Broda, M., Yun, J., Schneider, B., Yeager, D.S., Walton, G.M., & Diemer, M. (2018). Reducing Inequality in Academic Success for Incoming College Students: A Randomized Trial of Growth Mindset and Belonging Interventions. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness; and Schneider, B., Krajcik, J., Lavonen, J., Salmela-Aro, K. (Expect publication 2019) Learning Science: Crafting Engaging Science Environments. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Kaitlin Torphy
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    KAITLIN T. TORPHY, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist and the developer and Director of the Teachers in Social Media Project. This project considers the intersection of cloud to class, nature of resources within virtual resource pools, and implications for equity as educational spaces grow increasingly connected. Kaitlin conceptualizes the emergence of a teacherpreneurial guild in which teachers turn to one another for instructional content and resources. She has expertise in teachers’ engagement across virtual platforms, teachers’ physical and virtual social networks, and education policy reform. Kaitlin has published work on charter school impacts, curricular reform, teachers’ social networks, and presented work regarding teachers’ engagement within social media at the national and international level. Kaitlin’s other work examines diffusion of sustainable practices across social networks within The Nature Conservancy. Kaitlin holds a Ph.D. in education policy, a specialization in the economics of education, and is a Teach for America alumni and former Chicago Public Schools teacher.
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