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Introduction

While the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has conducted surveys of attrition and mobility among school teachers for two decades, little was known specifically about the early career patterns of beginning teachers. In order to inform discussions and decisions among policymakers, researchers, and parents, the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS), sponsored by NCES of the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education, was initiated as a longitudinal study of public school teachers who began teaching in 2007 or 2008.1 This report is a first look at data from the first three waves of data collection.

The objective of the BTLS is to obtain a better understanding of the career paths of beginning teachers. In pursuit of this objective, the BTLS examines the characteristics and attitudes (e.g. teacher satisfaction) of those who stay in the teaching profession and those who leave. Demographic information and data about the teaching profession (e.g., professional development, working conditions) and job satisfaction are collected.

Data were collected by the Census Bureau in the 2007–08, 2008–09, and 2009–10 school years and are being released as the BTLS First Through Third Wave Preliminary Data File.2 The BTLS is expected to continue for a minimum of five waves. Data collection for the first wave of BTLS was part of the 2007–08 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), which began in August 2007 and ended in June 2008. The approximately 1,990 first-year public school teachers who completed the 2007–08 SASS comprise the cohort being followed in the BTLS.3 Data collection for the second wave was conducted together with the 2008–09 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), which began in February 2009 and ended in August 2009; and data collection for the third wave began in January 2010 and ended in June 2010. Sample members who did not respond during the second wave were asked selected second wave items during the third wave. These respondents are referred to as retrospective respondents. Although each collection contained a telephone follow-up, the information was collected primarily through a mailed paper questionnaire for the first wave and a web instrument for the second and third waves. A paper questionnaire that was used in follow-up efforts was also developed for the second wave.

The overall base-weighted response rate for SASS teachers with 1 to 3 years of experience4 in 2007–08 was 73 percent. The individual second and third wave base-weighted response rates for the BTLS cohort were 84 percent and 86 percent, respectively. More information about the response rates for each wave and the bias analysis conducted for the first through third waves of BTLS can be found in appendix B and Tourkin et al. (forthcoming).

The purpose of this report is to introduce new NCES data through the presentation of tables containing descriptive information. Only selected findings are presented and not all differences in the tables are discussed in the text. In this report, stayers are teachers who were teaching in the same school in the year of data collection as in the previous year. Movers are teachers who were teaching at a different school in the year of data collection from the previous year. Returners are teachers who were teaching in the year of data collection, but were not teaching in the previous school year. Current teachers include stayers in all years, movers in 2008–09 and 2009–10, and returners in 2009–10. Leavers, also called former teachers, are teachers who were not teaching in the year of data collection. The findings were chosen to demonstrate the range of information available from the BTLS; they were not selected to emphasize any particular issue.

Table 1 examines teacher status (current/former) by year of data collection. Tables 2 and 3 examine teacher and school characteristics, by year of data collection and teacher status (current/former). Table 4 examines teacher status (stayer/mover/leaver/returner) by year of data collection, and table 5 reports on contract renewal status for leavers and movers, by year of data collection. The following variables were used in this report: age, whether a teacher was assigned a mentor, base salary, certification type, class organization, community type, whether a mover teacher's contract was not renewed, whether a leaver teacher's contract was not renewed, current/former status, whether a teacher entered teaching through an alternative certification program, full- or part-time teaching status, highest degree earned, occupational status, percent of K–12 students who were approved/eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, race/ethnicity, school level, sex, stayer/mover/leaver/returner status, and type of move between schools. More information about each variable can be found in appendix C of this report.

The tables in this report contain percentages reflecting bivariate associations between variables. All estimates have been weighted to produce national estimates. Comparisons mentioned in the selected findings have been tested for statistical significance at the .05 level using two-tailed Student's t statistics to ensure that the differences are larger than those that might be expected due to random sampling variation. No adjustments were made for multiple comparisons. Many of the variables are related to one another, and complex interactions and relationships have not been explored.

More information about BTLS can be found here.


1 Teachers were asked for the calendar year, not the academic year, in which they first began teaching.
2 For more information about the preliminary nature of this data file, please refer to the Reliability of Data section in appendix B.
3 Note that 1,990 is an unweighted count of respondents. More information about the survey design can be found in Tourkin et al. (forthcoming).
4 Whether or not a teacher was a first-year teacher was not known prior to the collection of the SASS teacher data, only whether each teacher was reported to have 1 to 3 years of experience, 4 to 19 years, or 20 or more years of teaching experience.

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