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2005 Spotlight

Mobility in the Teacher Workforce

How Many New Teachers Are Hired in a Year?

During the 1999–2000 school year, about 2,870,000 teachers (83 percent of all teachers) continued to teach in the same school in which they had taught the year before (figure 3). About 580,000 teachers (17 percent of all teachers) were “new hires” at their school. Most of these new hires replaced teachers who had left the school—in other words, they filled the positions created as a result of “teacher turnover” from the previous year. However, some of these new hires filled new positions in the teacher workforce—which grew by 3 percent, on average, over the previous 2 years (U.S. Department of Education 2003, table 66). Not all new hires were new teachers. New hires included teachers who transferred from another school, former teachers who re-entered the profession after a hiatus from teaching, individuals who did not work the previous year as an elementary or secondary school teacher and were not enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program, and individuals who were enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program the previous year. For simplicity’s sake, these various categories of new hires will be referred to, respectively, as transfers, returning teachers, delayed entrants, and recent graduates in this analysis.11

Transfers made up 9 of the 17 percent of teachers who were new hires at their school. This category of teachers includes individuals who changed schools either voluntarily or involuntarily (e.g., due to a school closing or reorganization, staff reduction, reassignment, or termination for unsatisfactory performance). Transfers may have moved from a school in a different district or from a school within the same district.

Returning teachers made up 4 of the 17 percent of teachers who were new hires at their school. This category of teachers (also sometimes referred to as “re-entrants”) includes individuals who taught in an elementary, middle, or high school either full time or part time for at least a year and then left teaching. The year before returning to teach, 36 percent of returning teachers worked in a nonteaching job, 11 percent cared for family members, and 9 percent completed further schooling.12 It is not possible to calculate how long of a hiatus most returning teachers took before re-entering the teacher workforce because SASS did not collect such data.

Delayed entrants made up about 2 of the 17 percent of teachers who were new hires at their school. This category of teachers includes individuals who were never employed as teachers in an elementary, middle, or high school before and who were not students the previous year. Most teachers in this category (57 percent) worked the previous year in a nonteaching job, though 6 percent taught in a preschool and 3 percent taught at a college or university.13 The number of years between earning their bachelor’s degree and starting to teach varied for teachers in this category: 56 percent started to teach within 5 years of earning their bachelor’s degree, 17 percent started 6–10 years after earning their bachelor’s degree, 16 percent started 11–20 years after, and 10 percent started more than 20 years after (data not shown in table).

Recent graduates made up about 3 of the 17 percent of teachers who were new hires at their school. This category of teachers includes individuals who were never employed as teachers in an elementary, middle, or high school before and who were undergraduate or graduate students the previous year.

Comparing the percentages for the different categories of new hires in 1999–2000 with those in the earlier administrations of SASS—in 1987–88, 1990–91, and 1993–94—reveals that schools replaced a larger percentage of teachers at the start of the 1999–2000 school year than at the start of any of the earlier SASS years (table 1). Despite this increase (relative to the earlier years), the percentage of brand-new teachers (delayed entrants and recent graduates) in the teacher workforce in 1999–2000 remained small (4 percent)14 and was not measurably different from the percentages in 1990–91 and 1993–94.15 Most teachers who are newly hired in schools each year are experienced teachers—either transfers or returning teachers—and 1999–2000 was no exception. That year, new hires who were experienced teachers16 constituted 73 percent of all new hires and 12 percent17 of the teacher workforce—the latter being a greater percentage than in 1987–88, 1990–91, or 1993–94. These are important points because they make clear that (1) increased teacher turnover does not necessarily mean that there will be greater proportions of inexperienced teachers in the workforce, and (2) without a major change in the dynamics of the workforce, attempts to improve the supply of new teachers can effect only small changes in the teacher workforce each year.


11In Luekens, Lyter, and Fox (2004), these categories are referred to, respectively, as transfers, re-entrants, delayed entrants, and new hires. This special analysis uses different labels to make it easier for nontechnical readers to recognize and remember who is included in each category.

This special analysis uses these standard four broad categories to provide a general overview of transitions in the teacher workforce. However, there can be a great deal of heterogeneity in these categories. For example, transfers include teachers transferring between schools within a district, teachers transferring from a school in one district to a school in another district, teachers transferring from private to public schools (or vice versa), as well as some combination of these types of transfers. Similarly, returning teachers include teachers who may be returning after a year break from teaching as well as teachers who may be returning after a 20-year hiatus. Thus, readers should keep in mind that the findings of this special analysis only provide a sense of the broad contours of teacher mobility nationally. (back to text)

12The rest were engaged in some uncategorized individual pursuit (37 percent); taught in a preschool (2 percent) or at a college or university (2 percent); were retired (1 percent) or unemployed (1 percent); or were in the military (less than 1 percent). These percentages do not sum to 100 percent because of rounding. (back to text)

13The rest were engaged in some uncategorized individual pursuit (28 percent); took care of family members (4 percent); were unemployed (2 percent); were in the military (1 percent); or were retired (less than 1 percent). These percentages do not sum to 100 percent because of rounding. (back to text)

14The apparent difference between the total estimate (4 percent) and the individual estimates for delayed entrants and recent graduates (2 and 3 percent, respectively) is because of rounding. (back to text)

15Brand-new teachers represented a larger percentage of the teacher workforce in 1999–2000 than in 1987–88 (4 vs. 3 percent). See note 14 for an explanation of the apparent difference between the total estimate for brand-new teachers presented here and the individual estimates for delayed entrants and recent graduates in figure 3. (back to text)

16The number of years of teaching experience that experienced new hires in 1999–2000 brought to their new schools varied: 27 percent had taught between 1 and 3 years, 31 percent had taught 4–9 years, 23 percent had taught 10–18 years, and 19 percent had taught 19 or more years (data not shown). (back to text)

17The apparent difference between the total estimate (12 percent) and the individual estimates for transfers and returning teachers (9 and 4 percent, respectively) is because of rounding. (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 3: Percentage distribution of public and private K–12 teachers by their employment background: 1999–2000

Table 1: Number and percentage distribution of public and private K–12 teachers by their workforce categories and employment background: 1987–88, 1990–91, 1993–94, and 1999–2000

Table SA3: Standard errors for figure 3: Percentage distribution of public and private K–12 teachers by their employment background: 1999–2000

Table SA4: Standard errors for table 1: Number and percentage distribution of public and private K–12 teachers by their workforce categories and employment background: 1987–88, 1990–91, 1993–94, and 1999–2000

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education