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2005 Spotlight

Mobility in the Teacher Workforce

How Long Have Teachers Been at the Same School When They Leave?

The Schools and Staffing Survey asked teachers how many years they had taught in the school where they worked in 1999–2000. Examining these data for those teachers who transferred or left teaching at the end of the 1999–2000 school year—the sources of institutional instability for individual schools—provides information on the average length of stay of leavers and transfers at their last school.33 It also allows one to explore how years of teaching experience, qualifications for main teaching assignment, control of school, and the poverty level of the school are related to differences in their average length of stay at their last school.34

On average, teachers who transferred to a new school for the 2000–01 school year had worked consecutively in their last school for 5 years, while those who left teaching at this time had worked consecutively in their last school for 9 years (figure 9). Thus, in general, transfers worked fewer years in their last school than those who left teaching. This generalization, however, does not hold true for transfers and leavers with less than 19 years of teaching experience, which means that most of the difference between transfers and leavers in the average length of stay at their last school is due to teachers with 19 or more years of teaching experience.

A comparison of public and private school leavers’ average length of stay at their last school reveals that the average number of years that private school leavers spent consecutively in their last school before leaving was about half that of their public school counterparts (5 vs. 10 years).

There is no difference between the average length of stay at their last school for high- and low-poverty public school leavers (11 years for both). This suggests that the poverty level of a school is not a factor in how long public school teachers teach in their last school on average. This average, however, does not mean that the distribution of years in their last school was the same for public school teachers in high- and low-poverty schools. For example, it is possible that a greater percentage of leavers from high-poverty schools than from low-poverty schools had among the fewest years of teaching experience and that a greater percentage also had among the most years of teaching experience. This fine-grained difference, however, is not measurable using TFS data because of the large standard errors associated with these percentages.

A comparison of out-of-field leavers with highly qualified leavers reveals that out-of-field leavers had worked consecutively in their last school for fewer years than highly qualified leavers (6 vs. 11 years). The same is true for out-of-field transfers compared with highly qualified transfers (4 vs. 6 years).


33“The average length of stay of leavers and transfers at their last school” in this analysis means the number of years that a teacher taught consecutively at the same school when measured upon their departure from that school. (back to text)

34Because these data are not from a longitudinal sample, they cannot provide statistics on the career histories of all teachers (e.g., how many schools the average teacher works at during his or her lifetime or the average length of time he or she stays at each school before transferring or leaving teaching). In addition, if there were external factors influencing teachers’ decisions to transfer or leave at the end of 1999–2000 that were different from those in other years, the average lengths of stay in their last school could be depressed or inflated compared with other years. (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 9: Average number of years teaching at the same school for teachers who did not teach in the same school in 2000–01 as in 1999–2000, by years of teaching experience, control of the school, poverty of the school, qualifications for main teaching assignment, and turnover status

Table SA14: Standard errors for figure 9: Average number of years teaching at the same school for teachers who did not teach in the same school in 2000–01 as in 1999–2000, by years of teaching experience, control of the school, poverty of the school, qualifications for main teaching assignment, and turnover status

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