In terms of how many new teachers stay in the profession, the picture has become brighter since 2007 when data suggested that as many as 50% of teachers were leaving within their first five years, according to the Center for American Progress.
An analysis of several national surveys found that at least 70% of new teachers were now staying in the profession for at least five years. In addition, 87% were found to stay at their jobs through the first three years.
The analysis also found that teachers in high-poverty schools, those schools where over 80% of its students are eligible for federally subsidized lunches, are staying in their positions at similar rates as first-time teachers are. Teaching at high-poverty schools is considered to be among the toughest work environments, and those teachers are more likely to leave the teaching profession after working in a high-poverty setting rather than a low-poverty one. However, according to the analysis, teachers in both settings display similar retention rates, at least for the first five years.
It is unclear why there is such a large jump in teacher retention rates for the first five years. Teacher salary increases barely covered the rate of inflation during this time, despite the strengthening economy. Despite this, teacher retention rates began to rise prior to the end of the recession in 2009, reports Robert Hanna for the Center for American Progress.
Of course, there are local differences to these national results. For example, a report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shows teachers in the state leaving their districts at differing rates. In 2013, only 10% of teachers reportedly left Catawba County Schools, yet 20% left Durham Public Schools at the same time.
It is thought that some teachers leaving could be a good thing, as teachers who do not enjoy the position should not stay there. While effective teachers should be kept, it is important to not try to retain every teacher. Some first-time teachers will leave as they find the career does not fit them, or as they get married, have kids or move. The optimal level of teacher retention is not considered to be 100%.
Findings from the study suggest that a much higher amount of first time teachers are staying at their jobs than are being reported elsewhere, which may mean that first-time teachers are now finding the career more rewarding as a whole, as well as their personal experiences at the school in which they are employed. “Ultimately, we serve our students best when we work to retain the best teachers, no matter their experience levels.”