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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Determinants and Consequences of Within-Year Teacher Turnover
by Redding, Christopher Hyde, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 2017, 221; 10753409
Abstract (Summary)

A substantial literature has emerged to describe teachers’ systematic labor patterns. A fundamental assumption of this literature has been that teacher turnover occurs between school years. I examine the tenability of this assumption using rich administrative data from North Carolina that enable me to measure teacher turnover not only as an annual event but as occurring at any month throughout the school year. Documenting the teacher turnover that occurs within school year allows for a more complete and accurate picture of how this instability occurs not just between school years, but during the school year as well. If within-year turnover is a lowfrequency event and evenly spread among all types of schools, then, it may not be necessary to do more than document when, where, by whom, and the extent to which it occurs. Yet, if withinyear turnover is a frequent occurrence or occurs disproportionately at underserved schools, within-year turnover may adversely affect students as well as their administrators who are forced to find a replacement teacher in the middle of the school year.

Each of the studies in this dissertation, demarcated as chapters, address a different element of within-year teacher turnover. In the first study, I begin by describing the frequency with which within-year teacher turnover occurs, including measuring the extent to which other measures of teacher turnover misidentify the true frequency with which teachers turn over by overlooking within-year turnover. I then consider the teacher and school characteristics associated with higher levels of within-year turnover. I also identify the ways in which withinyear turnover patterns resemble or differ from end-of-year turnover.

Unlike this first study that focuses on all public school teachers in North Carolina, the second study attends to novice teacher turnover. In this paper, I argue that an increasingly less experienced teacher labor force who have entered teaching from more varied entry pathways appear to be feeding a new dynamic whereby novice teachers begin their career in schools with higher concentrations of economically disadvantaged and racial/ethnic minority students. As these schools tend to have more challenging working conditions, teachers new to the profession risk becoming demoralized, leading to higher turnover, even during the school year. The unique contribution of this study is the use of survival analysis to model turnover monthly throughout the year, rather than as a single annual event occurring at one point in time. This approach allows me to understand how differences in the timing of novice teacher turnover across teacher entry pathway and school characteristics.

The final study shifts the focus from the teacher and school characteristics that predict within-year turnover to the impact that such turnover has on students. This study conceptualizes teacher turnover as harming student achievement through three distinct mechanisms: (1) staff instability; (2) classroom disruption; (3) differences in quality of replacement and replaced teacher. The destabilizing effect of teacher turnover is likely greater when turnover occurs during the school year than at the end of the year. Yet, within-year teacher turnover is likely to be most detrimental for the students assigned to the teacher who leaves midyear. In addition to the disruptive effect of losing their teacher, the replacement teacher may be a long-term substitute or be hired from a pool of less qualified teachers. This paper relies on a variety of fixed effects models to identify differences in the effect of turnover depending on the timing in the school year and organizational unit in which it occurs.

Taken together, the three studies in this dissertation add breadth to the policy discourse surrounding teacher turnover. In the literature, teacher turnover is treated as occurring between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. Yet, if the underlying factors which predict within- versus end-of-year turnover differ, policy levers to address this problem may also differ, depending on the timing of turnover. For instance, compared to teacher incentive programs that reward teachers in the subsequent school year, loss aversion may be exploited by asking teachers to give back money if they do not remain in their school. Examining teachers’ employment status every month increases our understanding of turnover as an ongoing management problem that schools, their leaders, and staff must contend with, rather than an annual recruitment and hiring activity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Henry, Gary T.
Commitee: Grissom, Jason A., Smith, Thomas M., Springer, Matthew G.
School: Vanderbilt University
Department: Leadership and Policy Studies
School Location: United States -- Tennessee
Source: DAI-A 79/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education Policy
Keywords: Student achievement, Teacher certification, Teacher effectiveness, Teacher turnover
Publication Number: 10753409
ISBN: 978-0-355-55592-9
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