Teacher Turnover Costs Alaska $20 Million Each Year

By Dr. Dayna Jean DeFeo
Senior Research Associate, Center for Alaska Education Policy Research at ISER

Teacher shortages and high rates of teacher turnover have recently gained media attention, and are especially challenging issues in Alaska. Between 2004 and 2014, district-level teacher turnover in rural Alaska averaged 20% per year, and about a dozen districts experienced annual turnover rates higher than 30%. Though urban districts have lower teacher turnover rates, they also have challenges with teacher recruitment and retention, particularly in hard-to-fill positions and in difficult-to-staff schools. Annually, Alaskan school districts hire about 1,000 teachers (500-600 are hired by its five largest districts), while Alaska’s teacher preparation programs graduate only around 200.

In 2015-2016, researchers at the UAA’s Center for Alaska Education Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) sought to quantify the per-teacher cost of turnover in Alaska. Using data collected from administrators in 37 of Alaska’s 54 districts, they describe teacher turnover and the costs associated with it in four key categories: separation, recruitment, hiring, and induction and training. Calculations find that the total average cost of teacher turnover is $20,431.08 per teacher. Extrapolating this to Alaska’s 2008-2012 turnover data, this constitutes a cost to school districts of approximately $20 million per year.

CAEPR notes that this calculation is a conservative estimate, and reflects typical teacher turnover circumstances – retirement, leaving the profession, or moving to a new school district. This cost estimate does not incorporate other costs being borne by schools, the state, the university, or communities, and also excludes the significant costs of teacher productivity and teacher preparation.

The report finds that even with conservative estimates, teacher turnover is a significant strain on districts’ personnel and resources, and in an era of shrinking budgets, teacher turnover diverts resources from teaching and learning to administrative processes of filling teacher vacancies.

Read the full report here on the CAEPR website.

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