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Study Reconsiders Harmful Effects of Teacher Turnover

Over at Teacher Beat, my colleague Stephen Sawchuk is reporting on a provocative, new study that challenges the idea that the high rates of teacher turnover in high-poverty, high-minority schools hinders learning.

In the new study—a working paper, really—economists Eric A. Hanushek and Steven G. Rivken analyze value-added data on teachers moving in and out of elementary schools in a large, urban Texas district. (They don't tell us which one.) The researchers found that the teachers leaving schools with high concentrations of black students were generally less effective, in terms of improving student achievement in mathematics, than the average teacher who stayed put. Because the departing teachers were generally replaced with novice teachers, who are also known to score low on the effectiveness scale, the researchers reason that the exiting teachers' net effect on learning may actually be pretty negligible.

Sawchuk points out, though, that "the paper doesn't take into account the disruption and low morale that seem likely to accompany an always-revolving staff door." He makes a good point, I think. Wouldn't it be instructive to take a look at the impact of teacher turnover rates on learning across entire schools, as well as for individual teachers?

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