Teacher Turnover Costs Alaska $20 Million Annually
On average, every teacher who leaves a school district in Alaska costs that district nearly $20,500. A third of that is for recruiting and hiring a replacement teacher, and half is for training the new teacher. Overall, teacher turnover costs the state’s school districts about $20 million a year.
These are the first systematic estimates of the costs when teachers leave Alaska school districts. Several colleagues and I developed the estimates earlier this year, after interviewing administrators in 37 of the state’s 54 districts about their expenses when teachers leave their jobs.
Turnover among teachers in Alaska—especially in rural areas—has historically been high, and economic circumstances today make it even more challenging to recruit and keep teachers. Fewer people are going into the teaching profession, meaning that the national pool of teachers is low. This teacher shortage, coupled with a strong economy and competitive salaries in the Lower 48, make it more difficult for Alaska to recruit teachers—80% of the state’s new hires are from out of state. Once teachers are hired, keeping them is also a challenge. Data from the Alaska State Policy Research Alliance show that in the 2016-2017 school year, individual schools in remote rural locations had over 30% teacher turnover, schools in hub communities 22%, and schools in more populated areas 14%-16%.
Some turnover is inevitable, and it’s not all bad. For instance, some teachers leave to take other jobs in education, and some retire, indicating stability. But research has shown that high teacher turnover hurts student achievement—and it’s expensive. Our estimates of turnover costs are conservative, based on what school administrators told us about expenses for separation, recruitment, hiring, and training. We did not estimate additional costs districts face, such as teachers leaving mid-year, or the broader costs to Alaska, related to teacher preparation and reduced student achievement.
Still, even our conservative estimates show that the direct costs of high teacher turnover are significant. If school districts could reduce turnover, they would have more money to invest in teaching and learning. You can download the report, The Cost of Teacher Turnover in Alaska, by Dayna DeFeo, Trang Tran, Diane Hirshberg, Dale Cope, Pamela Cravez.