Many researchers and policymakers attribute the higher attrition rates among new teachers to their working conditions (e.g., Baker and Smith 1997). Therefore, to encourage new teachers to remain in the profession, many states and localities have launched programs to support them (Archer 1999; Cooperman 2000). Policy analysts have also recommended that schools and districts professionalize teaching to improve retention (Kanstoroom and Finn 1999; Holmes Group 1986; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) 1996, 1997).
Such policy initiatives may help new teachers become better teachers more quickly and may increase occupation stability among teachers; however, they do not address other possible reasons for attrition among new teachers. Although such attrition has received considerable research attention over the years (Darling-Hammond 1984; Murnane et al. 1991), whether new teachers are more likely than college graduates beginning career in other professions to change occupations has no yet been addressed. High attrition from initial occupations may be endemic to new college graduates' entry into the labor market, regardless of occupation, as new graduates learn about workplace and their strengths and weaknesses as well as what they like and dislike about their jobs. In addition, interest in or aptitude for a field in an academic setting may not always translate to satisfaction in a related occupation. Particularly among graduates who majored in academic, rather than applied, fields of study, information about the kinds of work available to them and their affinity for it may be limited. If new college graduates change occupations at similar rates regardless of their early occupations, reducing attrition among teachers may be as much a matter of helping college students and new graduates choose, plan, and prepare for their careers as supporting new teachers and professionalizing teaching.
This research examines the occupation stability of bachelor's degree recipients during the first 4 years after receiving the bachelor's degree. The analyses address the following question: were graduates who were teaching in 1994 more or less likely than those in other occupations to leave the work force or work in a different occupation in 1997?
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