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2005 Spotlight

Mobility in the Teacher Workforce

Who Tends to Leave? Who Tends to Transfer?

At the end of 1999–2000, leavers who retired, naturally, tended to be older teachers, who, on average, had taught for 29 years in elementary, middle, or high school (table 5).29 The average age of retirees was 58, though 25 percent were 50–54 years old when they retired, 38 percent were 55–59 years old, and 36 percent were 60 or older.30 The apparent difference between the proportion of females among retirees in table 5 and continuing teachers in table 2 was not statistically significant. Likewise, there was no measurable difference between the percentages of retirees and continuing teachers who were highly qualified and were teaching out-of-field due to the small sample size and large standard errors.

Leavers who took another job other than elementary and secondary teaching were disproportionately male when compared with continuing teachers (32 vs. 25 percent). On average, these leavers were 39 years old and had 10 years of teaching experience before they left. These leavers were less likely to be highly qualified than teachers who continued to teach in the same school (50 vs. 63 percent) and were twice as likely to have been teaching out-of-field (24 vs. 11 percent).

Leavers who pursued further education tended to be new to the teaching profession, having taught on average for 4 years. The average age of these leavers was 30. There was no measurable difference between the percentage of these leavers who were female and the corresponding percentage for continuing teachers. These leavers were twice as likely to have been teaching out-of-field as teachers who continued to teach in the same school (22 vs. 11 percent); however, apparent differences between them in the percentages of highly qualified teachers were not statistically significant (52 vs. 63 percent).

Leavers who left teaching for family reasons were overwhelmingly female (99 percent). On average, these leavers were 34 years old and had 9 years of teaching experience before they left. These leavers were less likely to be highly qualified than teachers who continued to teach in the same school (53 vs. 63 percent) and were more likely to have been teaching out-of-field (16 vs. 11 percent). Although there are various family reasons that may prompt a teacher to leave the profession, research has found that “a substantial amount of teacher attrition is directly related to the birth of new children” (Stinebrickner 2002, p. 208).

Leavers who left for miscellaneous “other” reasons were, on average, 40 years old with 13 years of teaching experience. Due to the small sample size and the large standard errors of this category of leavers, there were no measurable differences in the percentage who were female or in the percentages of highly qualified and out-of-field teachers between these leavers and teachers who continued in the same school. Leavers in this category left teaching for a variety of personal reasons, ranging from “starting their own business” to becoming “a member of a contemplative religious community.” However, the most common reason reported by leavers who left for “other” reasons was to take a year-long sabbatical or leave of absence from teaching.

Teachers who transferred, as noted earlier, tended to be younger and less experienced than continuing teachers. In particular, beginning teachers (those with 3 or fewer years of teaching experience) were more likely to transfer than teachers with 10 or more years of experience (data not shown). Transfers were less likely to be highly qualified than teachers who continued to teach in the same school (55 vs. 63 percent) and were more likely to have been teaching out-of-field before they transferred (15 vs. 11 percent).31


29Most state teacher retirement plans specify minimum age and service requirements before a teacher is eligible to receive a full retirement pension. Twenty-six states allow public school teachers to retire with a full pension at any age if they have a minimum number of years of credited service; the most common minimum is 30 years of such service. Some states allow a teacher to retire with full benefits if the sum of his or her age and years of service equals or exceeds a specified number, such as 80 (Lohman 2002). (back to text)

30One percent of retirees were ages 40–49. (back to text)

31It is not possible to determine what percentage of transfers became “in-field” teachers in their new position after transferring because TFS does not ask respondents about their main teaching assignment as is done in SASS.

Figures and Tables

Table 2: Average age, average years of experience, percentage female, percentage out-of-field, percentage with both a major and certification in field, and percentage working full time for public and private K–12 teachers, by employment background: 1999–2000

Table 3: Percentage distribution of public and private K–12 teachers by certification status, by employment background: 1999–2000

Table 5: Among public and private K–12 teachers who left teaching between 1999–2000 and 2000–01, average age, average years of teaching experience, percentage female, percentage out-of-field, and percentage with both a major and certification in field, by the reason teachers left

Table SA5: Standard errors for table 2: Average age, average years of experience, percentage female, percentage out-of-field, percentage with both a major and certification in field, and percentage working full time for public and private K–12 teachers, by employment background: 1999–2000

Table SA6: Standard errors for table 3: Percentage distribution of public and private K–12 teachers by certification status, by employment background: 1999–2000

Table SA11: Standard errors for table 5: Among public and private K–12 teachers who left teaching between 1999–2000 and 2000–01, average age, average years of teaching experience, percentage female, percentage out-of-field, and percentage with both a major and certification in field, by the reason teachers left

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