As retaining teachers grows more challenging, districts are closely examining turnover to understand and improve retention.
Replacing teachers is time-consuming, costly, and disruptive to student learning. Exploring ways to reduce turnover can greatly benefit districts.
There are different ways to calculate teacher turnover rates. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) provides district and statewide teacher turnover data in the Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR). TAPR data for the previous year is reported each spring. For example, at the time this article was posted the latest rate available for comparison with other districts is 2019–2020. The latest data shows the state turnover rate was 16.8 percent.
The TAPR turnover rate is calculated as the percentage of teachers from the previous fall who are not employed in the district for the current fall—data is not available for turnover by campus. The TAPR turnover rate includes staff who remained employed in the district but not in teacher positions.
Districts wanting more recent data can use the following TAPR methodology to calculate last year’s turnover rate:
- Determine the total full-time equivalent (FTE) count of teachers from the fall of 2020–2021 who were not employed in the district in the fall of 2021–2022
- Divide this number by the FTE count for the fall of 2020–2021.
Districts may find a different way to calculate turnover rates, such as not counting staff who remain in the district but move to nonteaching positions. Whichever method is used, it should be consistent for the district to compare year-to-year turnover rates.
One of the best ways to collect information on why teachers leave the district is through exit interviews. An interview or survey can be conducted in person, online, or on paper. Anonymous surveys encourage more frank and honest feedback.
Be sure to include basic survey questions that ask which campus the teacher was assigned, how long the individual had been with the district, and which subjects were taught in order to track patterns.
An exit interview should provide the departing teacher a list of reasons to select from to indicate why they are leaving the district. This can help a district further understand turnover and compare data over time. Following are some examples:
- Health reasons
- Leaving the profession
- Family reasons
- Higher pay
- Changing careers
- Continuing education
- Other _______________
Additionally, it can benefit the district to include qualitative, open-ended questions to reveal more in-depth reasons teachers leave the district, such as:
- What did you like best/least about the district/campus?
- What would you recommend we change at the district/campus level?
- What was the most challenging part of your job?
- What was the most rewarding part of your job?
- Other information you would like to share: ______________________________
Once the district calculates annual turnover rates and collects reasons teachers leave the district, they can begin looking for trends and create a plan to reduce turnover. Some questions to ask during this process are:
- Is the turnover rate increasing or decreasing?
- Is it greater at specific campuses or in certain subject areas?
- Is the district losing veteran teachers, mid-level teachers, or teachers new to the district?
- Are there trends in the reasons teachers leave the district?
- What can we change to decrease turnover?
Sharing information with the school board as well as with principals and district leaders is important to raise awareness of the current turnover status and begin developing a strategic retention plan. It will take a collaborative effort to decrease turnover rates.
Relevant resources are available in the HR Library Employee Relations section (member login required) that can help districts develop a teacher retention plan, including:
Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at email@example.com.
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