Teacher-Retention Data for Charters Still Murky
For all the anecdotal claims about teacher turnover in charter schools, the available data on the topic are remarkably muddled.
The only national gauge of teacher-retention rates for charter school comes from a federally administered longitudinal survey of teachers conducted only every four years.
The most recent federal study, for 2012-13, found that about 18.5 percent of teachers in charter schools left at the end of that school year, compared with 15.6 percent in regular public schools. Four years earlier, the gap was much wider: 23.8 percent of charter teachers in 2008-09, compared with 15.4 percent of teachers in regular schools.
State and local data are also hard to come by, since teacher turnover is typically reported at the district rather than the school level. Texas, to take one exception, treats each charter as a district; five-year attrition rates for charter schools there ranged from about 26 percent to nearly 70 percent, the San Antonio Express News reported in a 2012 analysis.
Even for states that keep records on teacher retention by school, the data are often incomplete or contested. Most gauges don't break out involuntary dismissals or other contributing factors. New York's most recent teacher-retention rates for schools date from 2012-13, and some of the state's approximately 285 charters are missing entirely.
Meanwhile, attrition rates for several schools in the Success Academy charter network approached nearly 50 percent that year. But a spokeswoman for the network said the state figures were misleading because they didn't include some of the network's enrichment teachers.
Major charter-management organizations either don't routinely release their rates or release them only at the network level. Actual building-level retention rates tend to be lower as a result of teachers' changing jobs or schools within a network.
Below are self-reported teacher-retention rates from selected charter-management organizations.
Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools
26 schools: Los Angeles
Network retention rate of 73 percent; school rates range from 53 percent to 100 percent
Aspire Public Schools
Three-year average, 2011-2014
38 schools: California; Memphis, Tenn.
School retention rates of 78 percent to 88 percent
162 schools: 20 states
Network retention rate of 76 percent; average school retention rate of 70 percent
32 schools: New York City
Network retention rate of 83 percent
13 schools: Houston
Network rate of 76 percent
SOURCE: Education Week
Vol. 34, Issue 32, Page 16