Skip Navigation

2005 Spotlight

Mobility in the Teacher Workforce


Drawing upon data from the 1999–2000 SASS and 2000–01 TFS, this special analysis has reported the average characteristics of the 1999–2000 teacher workforce, new hires in that year, and 1999–2000 teachers who were no longer teaching in the same school in 2000–01. It has examined how new hires and teacher turnover tend to change the composition of the teacher workforce, as well as how years of experience, school control, and school poverty are related to the movement of teachers into other schools and out of teaching. The main findings of this analysis are as follows:

  • At the start of 1999–2000, 17 percent of the teacher workforce were new hires at their school. However, only a relatively small percentage of the workforce—about 4 percent—were brand-new teachers that school year.

  • Brand-new teachers—delayed entrants and recent graduates—represented 27 percent of new hires. Experienced teachers—transfers and returning teachers—made up the majority (73 percent) of new hires in 1999–2000.

  • In general, new hires are more likely to be younger and to teach out-of-field than continuing teachers. The average age of brand-new teachers was 29 in 1999–2000, suggesting that many teachers do not enter the teacher workforce “right out of college.”

  • The differences between the rates of new hires in public and private schools indicate that private schools are more likely to have brand-new teachers than public schools. No such measurable difference was found between low- and high-poverty public schools.

  • At the end of 1999–2000, about 16 percent of the teacher workforce “turned over” or did not continue teaching in the same school during the 2000–01 school year.

  • The turnover was larger at the end of 1999–2000 than at the end of 1987–88, 1990–91, or 1993–94 (16 vs. 14, 13, and 14 percent, respectively).

  • About half of teacher turnover can be attributed to the transfer of teachers between schools.

  • Teachers transfer at higher rates to public schools than to private schools. Public school teachers in high-poverty schools are twice as likely as their counterparts in low-poverty public schools to transfer to another school.

  • The percentage of teachers who retired at the end of the 1999–2000 school year was small relative to rates of total turnover: only 2 out of 16 percent.

  • The percentage of teachers who left teaching and took a job other than elementary or secondary teaching at the end of 1999–2000 was twice as large as that of teachers who retired (4 vs. 2 percent). Teachers who took a job other than elementary or secondary teaching were disproportionately male compared with continuing teachers.

  • The percentage of teachers who left teaching for family reasons, to return to school, or for other reasons at the end of 1999–2000 was less than 2 percent. Virtually all teachers who left for family reasons were female. Teachers who left to return to school had an average of 4 years of teaching experience.

  • Not all teachers who leave the teacher workforce do so permanently: about a quarter of newly hired teachers in 1999–2000 (4 out of 17 percent) were returning teachers.

  • Private school teachers are more likely to leave teaching than public school teachers.

  • Teachers who left at the end of 1999–2000 most commonly identified retirement (20 percent) as a reason for leaving teaching, followed by family reasons (16 percent), pregnancy/child rearing (14 percent), wanting a better salary and benefits (14 percent), and wanting to pursue a different kind of career (13 percent).

  • Both teachers who left teaching and teachers who transferred at the end of 1999–2000 reported a lack of planning time, too heavy a workload, too low a salary, and problematic student behavior among their top five sources of dissatisfaction with the school they left.