Recruitment & Retention

Teacher-Retention Data for Charters Still Murky

By Stephen Sawchuk — June 02, 2015 2 min read

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.

A Narrowing Gap?

Teacher-turnover rates at charters have fallen over time, a national survey indicates. But the averages still hide much variation among regions and networks.

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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education; David A. Stuit and Thomas M. Smith, Economics of Education Review

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
2013-14
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

KIPP
2013-14
162 schools: 20 states
Network retention rate of 76 percent; average school retention rate of 70 percent

Success Academies
2013-14
32 schools: New York City
Network retention rate of 83 percent

YES Prep
2013-14
13 schools: Houston
Network rate of 76 percent

SOURCE: Education Week

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A version of this article appeared in the June 03, 2015 edition of Education Week as Teacher-Retention Data for Charters Still Murky

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