GSE Faculty Research

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Journal Article

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Contemporary educational theory holds that one of the pivotal causes of inadequate school performance is the inability of schools to adequately staff classrooms with qualified teachers. This theory also holds that these school staffing problems are primarily due to shortages of teachers, which, in turn, are primarily due to recent increases in teacher retirements and student enrollments. This analysis investigates the possibility that there are other factors - those tied to the organizational characteristics and conditions of schools - that are driving teacher turnover and, in turn, school staffing problems. The data utilized in this investigation are from the Schools and Staffing Survey and its supplement, the Teacher Followup Survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. The results of the analysis indicate that school staffing problems are not primarily due to teacher shortages, in the technical sense of an insufficient supply of qualified teachers. Rather, the data indicate that school staffing problems are primarily due to excess demand resulting from a "revolving door" - where large numbers of qualified teachers depart their jobs for reasons other than retirement. Moreover, the data show that the amount of turnover accounted for by retirement is relatively minor when compared to that associated with other factors, such as teacher job dissatisfaction and teachers pursuing other jobs. The article concludes that popular education initiatives, such as teacher recruitment programs, will not solve the staffing problems of such schools if they do not also address the organizational sources of low teacher retention.


Reprinted from American Educational Research Journal, Fall 2001, Volume 38, Issue 3, pages 499–534. Publisher URL:

NOTE: The author, Dr. Richard M. Ingersoll, asserts his right to include this material in ScholarlyCommons@Penn.



Date Posted: 08 May 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.