Teacher turnover and school reform: how teacher turnover affects urban secondary school improvement
Zajac, Elizabeth Canfield
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Teacher turnover in urban public schools has traditionally been associated with school destabilization and is considered adversarial to school improvement and reform efforts. However, the 2009 federal education reform initiative, Race to the Top, endorsed forced teacher turnover at the lowest performing schools as a strategy for recruiting teachers of greater human capital and commitment to student learning. Using qualitative case study methods, this dissertation explored whether teacher turnover affects school reform efforts, and if so, how, by studying teacher turnover at three urban public high schools in New England. The findings revealed that teacher turnover does affect school reform efforts. In two of the three cases studied, teacher turnover contributed to the churn of human capital and to the disruption of social capital. In both of these cases, school reform efforts were negatively affected. In the third case, the potential negative effects of teacher turnover were largely mitigated through advanced planning. The leadership team also demonstrated how carefully controlled internal turnover could be used to advance reform efforts.