One of the important issues in the economics of education is understanding which teachers quit the profession. Theory doesn’t give a clear answer on this. On the one hand, underperforming teachers might find the job to be harder, so could be more likely to depart; but on the other hand, high-performing teachers might have better job opportunities in other occupations.
A new empirical analysis by a team of New York economists (including Hamp Lankford, who spoke at the ANU teacher quality conference I organised last year) finds that the news is mixed. Overall, quitters tend to be less effective than stayers. But in struggling schools, the best teachers tend to get poached away.
Who Leaves? Teacher Attrition and Student Achievement
by Donald Boyd, Pam Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, James Wyckoff
Almost a quarter of entering public-school teachers leave teaching within their first three years. High attrition would be particularly problematic if those leaving were the more able teachers. The goal of this paper is estimate the extent to which there is differential attrition based on teachers’ value-added to student achievement. Using data for New York City schools from 2000-2005, we find that first-year teachers whom we identify as less effective at improving student test scores have higher attrition rates than do more effective teachers in both low-achieving and high-achieving schools.Â The first-year differences are meaningful in size; however, the pattern is not consistent for teachers in their second and third years. For teachers leaving low-performing schools, the more effective transfers tend to move to higher achieving schools, while less effective transfers stay in lower-performing schools, likely exacerbating the differences across students in the opportunities they have to learn.