Why they leave, why they stay, and what these choices cost: exploring decisions by teachers in rural Alaska

Lead Author Diane, Hirshberg
Institution Contact Center for Alaska Education Policy Research University of Alaska Anchorage 3211 Providence Drive, BoC 301 Anchorage, AK 99508
Co-Authors Dayna DeFeo, CAEPR, University of Alaska Anchorage Dale Cope, Independent Researcher Craig Kasemodel, University of Wisconsin, Madison Alexandra Hill, CAEPR, University of Alaska Anchorage
Theme Theme 4: Building Long-term Human Capacity
Session Name 4.1 Lifelong Professional Education in the Present Context of Transformation and Their Impact on the Quality of Life
Datetime Wed, Sep 14, 2016 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM
Presentation Type Oral
Abstract text In Alaska, teacher turnover rates in rural Alaska are very high, averaging 20% across all rural districts and running as high as 50% in some. The impacts of high turnover are multiple; most importantly that high turnover rates are correlated with lower student achievement on standardized measures. In addition, high turnover rates create significant costs to districts struggling to staff rural schools.

The causes of high teacher turnover in Alaska are complex and multiple. Over 2/3 of teachers hired each year to work in Alaska’s schools come from outside the state. Many come to rural Alaska unfamiliar with the cultures of the indigenous peoples as well as the challenges in living in a remote, small community. Moreover, in many communities there is a disconnect between parents and the school, leaving teachers feeling unsupported by the community.

In this paper we explore the causes and costs of high teacher turnover. We use data collected via a statewide survey of teachers on their perceptions of relationships with administrators, parents and communities, and their overall job satisfaction, as well as information on whether these educators stayed in or left their school. We also use data gathered from school superintendents across Alaska about a wide variety of specific costs associated with teachers entering and leaving their districts. We describe the correlation between teacher perceptions and their decisions to stay or leave, as well as the costs districts accrue when teachers leave. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings as well as ideas for addressing this difficult problem.
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