Research shows

Cutting teacher turnover in NYC middle schools

What’s the best way to tell whether or not New York City middle school teachers will stay on the job? According to a survey of some 42 percent of the division’s teaching force, factors such as how they became teachers in the first place and working conditions are the greatest indicators.

The responses of more than 4,000 teachers who were surveyed by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools revealed that nearly 40 percent of the city’s middle school teachers considered leaving their school and/or the teaching profession, about the same number as eventually do quit.

Meanwhile, those who became teachers via an alternative certification route were most likely to consider leaving: 61 percent of those from Teach for America and 47 percent of New York City Teaching Fellows considered leaving, compared to only 34 percent of those who went to school to become teachers.

Those teaching a new subject also had a higher probability of thinking about leaving compared to teachers teaching a new grade. Researchers say this may be related to how much more work is involved when teaching a subject for the first time.

Workplace issues, such as principal leadership, student behavior and teacher collegiality, were another important driver in the decision to leave. In schools where principals were ranked highest by teachers, only 31 percent of teachers considered leaving compared to 50 percent in schools where principals were rated lowest.

Meanwhile, only 32 percent of those in schools with fewer student conduct problems thought about quitting, compared to 46 percent who did so from schools ranked high in behavior issues.

Since weak principal leadership and challenging student behavior were issues associated with high turnover rates, researchers Aaron M. Pallas and Clare K. Buckley, both of Teachers College, Columbia University, recommended professional development that focused on those areas.

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