Research Alliance Says NYC Middle School Teacher Turnover is a Systemic Issue

“Strengthening middle schools has taken on increased urgency, and the stability of the middle school teaching force has the potential to facilitate or complicate improvement efforts,” said James Kemple, executive director of the Research Alliance. “Our findings point to a real exodus of teachers from the middle grades. Within individual schools, it is likely that improving working conditions can increase teachers’ lengths of stay. But our study also suggests that middle school teacher turnover is a systemic issue.”

“Who Stays and Who Leaves? Synthesis of Findings from a Three-Part Study of Teacher Turnover in NYC Middle Schools,” is one of several studies being conducted by the Research Alliance that focus on the middle grades. For a complete copy of the report, visit:

An analysis of the New York City Department of Education’s human resource records, from 2002 through 2011, shows that middle school teachers left their schools at higher rates than elementary and high school teachers. More than half the teachers who entered a New York City public middle school left that school within three years. The study, which also included surveys of more than 4,000 middle school teachers and case studies in four schools, concluded that teacher turnover is one of the major challenges that NYC middle schools face as they attempt to build stable and effective learning communities.

Released today by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, the study represents the most current and comprehensive investigation of the state of middle school teacher turnover to date. Additional findings of the study include:

  • Only about one in ten departing middle schools teacher transitions to another New York City middle school. The majority exits the city’s public school system, with most of the remainder moving to elementary or high schools.
  • Teachers with less experience are more likely to leave their schools.
  • Teachers are more likely to consider leaving their school if they entered teaching through alternative routes, such as Teach for America or NYC Teaching Fellows, or are teaching a new subject for the first time.
  • Teachers are more apt to stay in schools with high levels of safety and order and where principals are seen as trusting and supportive of staff, knowledgeable instructional leaders and good managers.

“There may be a need for a citywide initiative designed to support and incentivize teachers who commit to working in the middle grades,” Kemple explained.